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Featured Blu-ray Review: Ritual

January 13th, 2013

Ritual - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Tales from the Crypt was a fun anthology horror TV series that ran for seven seasons on HBO starting in 1989. Because it was on HBO and not a basic cable channel, it had the full freedom to show as much gore and nudity as they want. In 1995, the show made the leap to the big screen with a trilogy. Demon Knight started things off and while it earned weak reviews, it still did well enough to justify a sequel. That sequel was Bordello of Blood, which was eviscerated by critics and bombed at the box office. As a result, the final film, Ritual, wasn't released for five years, and then it was dumped direct-to-DVD. Is it as bad as that sounds? Or was it punished for the previous film's box office struggles?

The Movie

As with all Tales from the Crypt shows, this one begins with The Crypt Keeper talking about Jamaica, which is where this film is set. After a few of his usual puns, we get to the film itself, which begins at the birthday party for Wesley. Unfortunately, the guest of honor is unable to make it to his own party, as he is feeling very ill. It's not a normal sickness; in fact, he's convinced his become a zombie, having fallen victim of a voodoo curse. He's not the only victim, as we witness Dr. Peter Winsfold attacked by a voodoo ritual and burst into flames. (At least that's what he sees happen. In reality, he dies of a heart attack.)

Back in the U.S., we meet Dr. Alice Dodgson, who it tending to a dying patient, Jenny (Lea Marie Golde). Alice wants to use an experimental medicine; however, her supervisor, Dr. Javitz, says she can't till she gets the board's permission. That process will take too long, so she goes ahead without the approval. This turns out to be a deadly mistake. Not only does her partient die, but because she disobeyed a direct order from her supervisor, she is suspended for two years. Fortunately, she is able to get a job, taking care of the aforementioned Wesley. Wesley's brother, Paul, explains his condition to Alice, and that he thinks he's a zombie. She becomes friends with Caro and learns more about the voodoo, or Obeah, as the Jamaicans call it. J.B. takes her to his father, who is also an Obeah priest, but he warns her the man who cursed Wesley is much more powerful than he is. She later meets Tim Curry, who adds some much needed lightness to the movie. There's also a creepy member of the staff, who is always lurking about. Soon the body count starts to rise and Alice has to figure out who the bad guy is before it is too late.

I liked Demon Knight more than most critics; it was not a great film, but I thought it was entertaining. Bordello of Blood was merely an excuse to show nudity and gore, and frankly that's all it was good for. (Even then, there's better places to find both.) With that in mind, Ritual is closer to the former than the latter. There are some good elements to the movie, including Jennifer Grey in the lead and most of the supporting actors add to the overall quality. The central mystery in the movie was effective and the filmmakers created a sufficiently creepy mood. However, it feels padded. It is a remake of I Walked with a Zombie, which was less than 70 minutes long. That's too short for feature-length film today, but at nearly 100 minutes, not counting the opening The Crypt Keeper segment or the closing credits, it is far too long. It needed at least 10 minutes trimmed from the film to improve the pacing. It is also much tamer than the other. If The Crypt Keeper wasn't seen at the beginning and at the very end, you wouldn't know it was a Tales from the Crypt movie. Granted, throwing in gratuitous nudity would not have helped the movie, but perhaps having more scares would have improved it. Hell, a little more humor would have gone a long way to improving the movie.

The Extras

There are no extras on the Blu-ray. Also, like the other two Echo Bridge Entertainment releases I reviewed this week, the technical presentation is mixed. The film is a little too soft and there are not a lot of fine details. The colors are rarely as vibrant as they should be. There's quite a bit of grain. Blacks are sometimes very good, but other times they are not quite as deep as they should be. The audio is better, with good clarity and a lot of separation, but it is only a 2.0 track. On the other hand, it only cost $8.

The Verdict

Ritual isn't a bad movie, but it is only average. The Blu-ray is absolutely a bargain release and the price is the best selling point. Unless you are a really big fan of the genre, a rental will be enough.

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Filed under: Video Review, Tales from the Crypt, Tim Curry, Erick Avari, Gabriel Casseus, Jennifer Grey, Daniel Lapaine, Craig Sheffer, Stephen Tobolowsky, Kristen Wilson, John Kassir