Theme Song: 1977 is still a little early for motivational-survivalist theme songs. If this movie had been made in 1979 there would be a triumphant song played over the end credits. Hey, do you like violins? There are a lot of them here.
Interesting Dated References: Mailing people Xeroxed sheets with vacation itineraries instead of an email or Facebook message. Also dated is the notion of the backwoods being a dangerous place for successful white men looking to have fun. With cell phones and GPS, the only places successful, white businessmen are afraid to go to now are certain alleyways, neighborhoods, dance clubs, and any place where the lighting will put focus on their ever-thinning hairlines.
Best Line: Shouted by angry camping group member — “Look, two months ago I sent everyone Xeroxed sheets of what you were to bring!”
Social Context: Even though this was billed as a Deliverance-esque survival film, it isn’t. It’s actually a white-guys-camping-get-stalked-by-vengeful-killer type of movie. The social context? Nothing new here. We all know privileged, white, males are the worst kind of people on earth, and they all deserve to be killed. Don’t trust people who’ve never had to struggle.
Summary: Five wealthy doctors (each in the middle of their own moral/workplace crisis) all go on vacation together. Hal Holbrook stars as Harry, the down-to-earth doctor who isn’t in it for the glory, unlike his friend Mitzi, who is pressuring him to come work at the fancy hospital.
This troupe is dropped off by plane for a hiking/fishing trip in the Canadian wilderness. For some reason they all are wearing the same hat and apparently bought the exact same backpack. On the first night, they all sit around and have more ethical talk about surgery and other shit doctors apparently sit around talking about. I assume doctors also talk about how much money they make by piling patients on top of each other, how half-assed they do their jobs, and how much better they think they are than the people they went to high school with.
In the morning, Marty, the incompetent doctor with a drinking problem, realizes everyone’s boots were stolen. Well, everyone’s boots but DJ, who apparently slept in his, or something. DJ is a real tightwad and obviously is super insecure, and as a result has to control and schedule his friends. In a fit of rage, DJ takes off to get help at the dam that is 12 hours away. That night, the remaining four doctors are awakened by a deer carcass and use their fancy medical knowledge to figure out that the deer is “still fresh.”
The next day, they tie plastic bags onto their feet and wade through a bunch of water trying to find DJ. At some point they are attacked by a giant hornet nest and they all immediately run down the nearest hill into a pond. And get this, one of them dies! That’s right, he dies from the stings.
I know people are allergic. But maybe five fucking doctors on a hiking trip would plan ahead if they knew one of them was so fucking allergic to bees that he would immediately die from stings. Or how about this, if you are that allergic to bees, don’t go on a fucking hiking/fishing trip.
So, eventually our trio reaches the river crossing that is featured on the poster. As expected, Marty the fucking drunk gets his leg caught in a bear trap. Harry and Mitzi sit there and discuss how to amputate the leg properly. You can tell the filmmakers paid a bunch of extra money to hire a medical consultant to help with the dialogue and they wanted to make damned sure they got their moneys worth.
Then Harry and Mitzi carry the now-crippled Marty all over the place. They theorize DJ is stalking them, but change their mind when they find some WWII medals placed on Marty. After much boring chatter and endless walking scenes, the guys wake up the next morning to find a head on a stick.
I think it was the head of the doctor who was allergic to bees. Harry gets super dramatic and throws it off a cliff. Then they find an x-ray of some bizarre head injury.
Harry finds DJ dead, Mitzi runs off, Harry cries, leaves Marty, wakes up in a house, fights a blind guy, finds out the killer is blind guy’s brother, then there is like ten minutes of super dark footage that is either two men fighting or two men having sex.
I seriously can’t tell. Suddenly Mitzi is hanging from some type of tree and he and Harry are shouting back and forth about a wound Harry has incurred. There’s a pointless moment where Harry uses gunpowder to cauterize the wound and shout-describes it to Mitzi whom offers advice. This shit goes on for like another ten minutes. They seriously were really trying to get their moneys worth with the medical consultant.
Then we see less than one second of Mitzi being set on fire and some weird burned thing runs to where Harry is and he shoots it. Then Harry sits in the road and waits for help.
I should acknowledge the following: Rituals had a theatrical runtime of 100 minutes. The Embassy Entertainment home video edition was edited down to 89 minutes. According to experts (nerds) the scene(s) edited out of the film happen at the end. In fact it’s basically the climax where we see Harry get injured and Mitzi burned to death. Why not edit out the bee stinging sequence? I guess what I’m getting at is Rituals could be a much better movie than what I saw, but I’m not going to investigate any further because I still think it was boring and pointless. Also of note is that this was directed by Peter Carter who directed High Ballin’.
Poster and Box Art: The poster for Rituals follows right in line with Deliverance and all the other men-in-backwoods-get-attacked-by-locals films, which is that they all have to feature water and something coming out of or walking in said water.
Availability: Allegedly this movie was released on DVD fully restored and uncensored. Unfortunately the only online listing I see for it wants $50.00.