aka Modus Anomali
Written and Directed by Joko Anwar
A man wakes up in the woods after being buried alive. Unable to remember who he is, he relies on clues around him to try to piece together his life and what happened to him. After discovering a videotape of a woman being murdered, he decides to search for help but whilst wandering around the woodland, he soon realises he’s being hunted down…
RITUAL aka MODUS ANOMALI is the first English-language outing for Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar. Part mystery and part survival thriller, RITUAL likes to keep the viewer in the dark as to what is going on, keeping them on their toes just like lead character John. Dressed casually with an unbuttoned shirt, we get the sense that John is just some average bloke who’s somehow got himself into a nightmarish situation through being at the wrong place at the wrong time unless he’s done a drug deal gone wrong. As we discover all these clues about his life, we begin to build a picture on who he is and what appears to have happened to him and those around him.
For a good four fifths of the movie, RITUAL is incredibly slow moving. Long meandering shots that seem to last forever don’t exactly help the feeling that the film is dragging even if a few interesting angles are used that often feel like the viewer or someone sinister is creeping up behind John. Many times these camera angles amount to nothing which makes their use of little purpose other than to offer up something different for the viewer but unless they are POV shots they do not relate to the story or characters that well.
RITUAL isn’t without its surprises and it’s these what save the film from being dull as dishwater. There are a few shocks present that will surprise the viewer, some of which are very brutal, but once the novelty has worn off there’s very little left to care about. Part of the film has been compared to a well known movie that is much loved by myself and fellow HCF writers but that is a much smarter film than this particular effort.
Actor Rio Dewanto makes for a strong lead star for the most part, with almost all the scenes including him, however there are some moments when his dialogue delivery comes across as a bit corny. Even scenes of him vomiting provide humour (at least for me) as it’s clear from the gushing bile that there’s a pipe hidden on the blind side of his face. I can understand the movie was made on a budget but a simple mushroom soup job would have sufficed and retained the believability, though I suppose I am nitpicking. It’s just a shame because the rest of the environment and scene setting is on point.
As a whole, RITUAL struggles to keep the viewer engaged and there’s simply not enough meat to the story or visuals in the events leading up to the final 20 minutes. Though an interesting idea, it feels like a missed opportunity to make a truly great, frightening thriller.