Ritual (Blu-ray)

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Ritual (Blu-ray)Starring Jennifer Grey, Tim Curry, Craig Sheffer, Kristen Wilson

Directed by Avi Nesher

Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment

Ritual, the third Tales from the Crypt feature film, was dumped direct to video with such little fanfare that most people didn’t even realize it was the next installment in what was planned to be an ongoing anthology series. That’s because Dimension reportedly purchased the film from Universal and removed all references to the Crypt Keeper and other staples. It was shot sometime in the early 2000s (although exactly when is tougher to determine), and went unreleased in the states until 2006 when Dimension, true to form, dumped it direct to DVD.

At that time, it had no real associations to Tales from the Crypt. But recent DVD (and this Blu-ray) editions have restored the Crypt Keeper intro. Unfortunately, it’s hardly a selling point, believe me. The Crypt Keeper puppet is cheap, lifeless and shot without a single sense of style of flare. John Kassir provides all the bad puns you’ve come to expect from the decaying narrator, but it’s only a reminder of how much better it was done in previous cinematic and television outings.

As for the movie itself, it’s a wholly watchable, if unspectacular, affair. Jennifer Grey plays a disgraced doctor who travels to Caribbean to take a gig as a caretaker for a young man suffering from cephalitis. Grey discovers that the locals believe her patient is suffering a voodoo curse that has rendered him a zombie, and soon begins looking into who might’ve cursed the young man. And why.

That’s the gist, and Ritual rambles along at a staggering 106-minute runtime, providing an experience in lethargy. The mystery goes through plenty of dry spots, challenging the viewer’s attention span more than once. This might’ve been easier to take at 80 minutes, but there’s a lot of excess here as Grey traipses around the island mingling with a bizarre assortment of characters – presumably an attempt to keep the viewer guessing between the five or six red herrings offered throughout. To Ritual’s credit, however, the villain’s identity comes as something as a surprise and the script culminates in a pretty mean-spirited denouement.

The biggest problem here is that Ritual just isn’t much fun. The script takes itself entirely too seriously (a knee-jerk reaction to the overly comedic Bordello of Blood?) – to the point where it ceases being entertaining – and it amounts to precious little in the end. The plus side is that Jennifer Grey is a largely likable heroine (it doesn’t hurt that she parades around half-naked most of the time) and her friendship with voodoo islander Caro (the lovely Kristen Wilson) buoys the film with some amiable personality. Tim Curry shows up once in a while, providing laughs as a libidinous veterinarian while Craig Sheffer comes off looking like a poor man’s Bill Paxton in his role as the generic rich white guy.

Ritual is also a mixture of decent (if underused) practical effects and wholly dodgy CGI. The horror aspects here are certainly light, but the movie does come equipped with some nice atmosphere that genuinely makes it an easier sit. Being a remake of Val Lewton’s I Walked With a Zombie, it’s appropriately moody but without a modicum of the suspense that Jacques Tourneur brought to the initial outing (the original also clocks in at 69 minutes – this remake runs 37 minutes longer, without adding anything important to the mythos). You could do a lot worse than sitting through this, but a better question would be: Can you do any better? Most certainly, you can.

Echo Bridge Entertainment brings Ritual to Blu-ray in a less-than stellar 1080i transfer, while continuing their unfortunate habit of cropping all releases to 1.78:1. In the instance of Ritual, the OAR appears to be 1.85:1, so it’s not a terrible loss to this particular release. In the future, however, I’d like to see them exercise some care for future titles, ensuring the proper aspect ratio be presented. Like it or not, they’ve got a considerable wealth of titles in their library that genre fans are interesting in owning, and hopefully they’ll consider (re)doing some of them properly.

Having said that, Ritual doesn’t look bad, just unimpressive. The source is rife with print damage and the overall image quality looks a tad too soft. Colors aren’t bad, and skin tones look healthy and natural. Black levels are stable, offering some respectable contrast amidst other colors. If you’re a fan of Ritual and looking to add this to the collection, you could do a lot worse. Just understand that this transfer isn’t much more than passable.

On the audio front, we’ve got a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. It’s actually quite nice, with crystal clear dialogue levels and effect ambient sound. Nothing that will wreck your surround system, but it’s a solid little audio track, nonetheless.

So that’s Ritual. Tales from the Crypt completionists might want to add this to their collections – if only to see the Crypt Keeper intro (and outtakes after the closing credits). The film is nothing special, but might be worth a look on a slow afternoon. Echo Bridge brings it to Blu-ray with precious little fanfare, and modest A/V. Not nearly the disaster it’s been made out to be, and that is truly damning it with faint praise.


2 out of 5

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Matt Serafini

Author (Under the Blade, Feral), slasher movie enthusiast, N7 Operative. Plays games, watches movies, reads books. Occasionally writes about them.

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