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Dimension Films presents

Ritual (2001)

"This is your old bosom bloody, the Crypt Keeper."- The Crypt Keeper (John Kassir)

Stars: Jennifer Grey, Craig Sheffer
Other Stars: Daniel Lapaine, Kristen Wilson, Gabriel Casseus, Tim Curry, John Kassir, Stephen Toblowski
Director: Avi Nesher

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, language, and some sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:45m:55s
Release Date: 2006-05-02
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ DB+B+ D-


DVD Review

Following the success of the TV series, the Tales from the Crypt franchise turned to the silver screen. Unfortunately, the theatrical releases of Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood were flops for Universal. A third film was shot in 2001 for Dimension Films, but never saw a theater projector, left to linger in release limbo. Ritual is finally being unleashed upon unsuspecting horror fans straight to DVD.

After an introduction by the Crypt Keeper (John Kassir), enjoying some time with some buxom babes by a pool in Jamaica, we descend upon a party thrown by Paul Claybourne (Craig Sheffer). When a guest dies following the party, we meet Dr. Alice Dodgson (Jennifer Grey), who has just had her license suspended following a drug prescription mishap. Dodgson finds a job in Jamaica at Claybourne's compound. She meets her boss, his assistant, Caro (Kristen Wilson), and the sleazy Matthew Hope (Tim Curry), and the person she's been hired to care for, Claybourne's brother, Wesley (Daniel Lapaine), who thinks he is a zombie. Soon after Alice's arrival, a series of spooky events take place, and she realizes that the voodoo practices common to Jamaica might be the cause.

While Ritual is a good-looking film, it's not hard to determine why it sat on the shelf for so long. It's main problem is the horrendous acting, with even the usually reliable Tim Curry and Stephen Toblowski phoning in their performances. While they and a couple of others are at least tolerable, Jennifer Grey and Craig Sheffer are nearly impossible to watch without cringing. Grey and Sheffer have done solid work in the past (in Dirty Dancing and Nightbreed, respectively), but their stiff line delivery and facial expressions generate more unintentional laughs than terrifying scenes. Speaking of unintentional laughs, just wait until you see Sheffer and Daniel Lapaine fake-playing musical instruments at a dinner party. This entire sequence takes bad to a level that's never been reached before.

There are also many strange sequences where actors seemingly talk above each other. While it's possible this was intentional, it comes across as being either a case of unprofessional work by director Avi Nesher, or simply bad timing by the actors. The ultra-cheap pedestrian special effects are difficult to watch, like a group of tree branches coming to life. You'll see DVD extra features that showcase early computer test footage looking better than this.

The most disappointing aspect of Ritual is that it's completely devoid of any of the trademark dark humor and effectively twisty story elements that Tales From the Crypt is all about. Any attempts at humor here are of the instant groan-inducing one-liner variety. There's a big twist at the end as to who the villain of the film is, but this big reveal (and the entire movie, for that matter) contains none of the campy charm that we've grown accustomed to from the Crypt Keeper and company.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is full of sharp, detailed images that overcome a few instances of shimmer and softness. The color scheme is rendered well with accurate fleshtones throughout. Solid contrast and black levels also help things along in a transfer that is mostly without dirt and grain.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also a nice surprise, utilizing wide dynamic range and impressive bass. The best of the audio comes during flashbacks to voodoo rituals. All of the surrounds are used in those instances, delivering an enveloping, powerful punch to the on-screen proceedings. The dialogue is always clear, and never overcome by any of the other audio elements.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There are no extras at all.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

It's been gathering dust on the studio shelf for a few years now, but Ritual finally arrives on DVD from Dimension Home Video. Unfortunately, this is a scare-free groaner with some of the worst special effects you'll come across. The audio and video presentations are surprisingly solid, but there's literally nothing in the way of supplemental features.

Chuck Aliaga 2006-05-02