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Ritual (May 28/06)

Intended for release five years ago under the Tales from the Crypt banner, Ritual was evidently shelved following the box office failure of 1996's Bordello of Blood - though it seems far more likely that the film hasn't seen the light of day until now simply because it's awful. Despite being well acted and occasionally surprisingly gory (best melting-guy effect since Robocop!), Ritual is the latest in a long line of ineffective horror flicks dealing with the world of voodoo (the film is slightly better than last year's The Skeleton Key, but that's not saying much).

After losing her medical license for insubordination, Dr. Alice Dodgson (Jennifer Grey) reluctantly accepts a job in Jamaica - where she is to care for a seriously ill young man (the catch: said young man is convinced he's a zombie). It's not long before Alice starts to realize everything is not as it should be, and - along with the help of a friendly local (Kristen Wilson) - subsequently finds herself fighting for no less than the eternal possession of her soul.

As expected, Ritual is introduced by the Crypt Keeper (voiced by John Kassir, as always) - though by having the character speak with a ridiculous Jamaican accent, the filmmakers manage to bungle what should have been the highlight of the movie. Director Avi Nesher - along with co-writer Rob Cohen (yep, that Rob Cohen) - infuses Ritual with all the expected cliches of the voodoo genre, including an almost absurd amount of is-it-reality-or-is-it-a-dream sequences. And although Grey delivers a surprisingly personable performance, she's generally left with little to do aside from either looking really scared or really concerned. Periphery actors such as Tim Curry and Stephen Tobolowsky are flat-out wasted, while the film's computer effects are so astoundingly terrible one can't help but wonder if they were even finished.

Though Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood were far from exemplary horror flicks, at the very least they were both fun - something that certainly cannot be said of the tedious and thoroughly interminable Ritual.

out of

About the DVD: Buena Vista Home Entertainment presents Ritual with an anamorphically-enhanced transfer, along with several bonus trailers.
© David Nusair