Directed by Avi Nesher
Produced by Ted Hartley
Written by Rob Cohen and Avi Nesher
Director of Photograpy Doug Milsome
Music by Shirley Walker
Cast: Jennifer Grey, Tim Curry Craig Sheffer, Kristen Wilson, Daniel Lapaine
2001/106 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Dimension Home Video DVD
When one thinks of "Tales from the Crypt", be that the old EC comic books, the 1972 feature film (which I must apologize, I can't remember if it was Hammer or Amicus), or the HBO television series, one of the first things which comes to mind is the famous twist endings which the stories offered, where the bad person would usually get their comeuppance. Well, I don't remember doing anything particularly bad, but it is certainly the viewer who suffers at the conclusion of RITUAL, a TALES FROM THE CRYPT feature film which was abandoned and has now found its way to DVD.

In RITUAL, we meet Alice Dodgson (Jennifer Grey), an ambitious young doctor. After she uses an unauthorized medication on a patient, Alice loses her medical license and is forced to take a job in Jamaica (where medical licenses apparently aren't required). She is hired by plantation owner Paul Claybourne (Craig Sheffer) to care for his brother, Wesley (Daniel Lapaine), who has a mysterious illness. Once she arrives in Jamaica, Alice discovers a land which is a combination of beauty and fear. Amongst the lush tropical surroundings, the locals are well aware of the voodoo rituals which take place on the island and cower before those who wield the magic.

Alice attempts to settle in to her new surroundings and is quickly befriended by Caro (Kristen Wilson) and Matthew (Tim Curry). Once she meets Wesley, she finds herself oddly drawn to this peculiar young man. However, is also ill at ease, as she finds a voodoo doll in her room, finds her medical equipment damaged, and learns that there have been murders in the area. As Alice tries to find a rational explanation for the occurrences, everyone around her is claiming that voodoo is to blame. Will Alice live long enough to learn the truth?

As far as I can tell, RITUAL was made around the year 2000 and was meant to be the third TALES FROM THE CRYPT theatrical film. But, after the poor showing of BORDELLO OF BLOOD, the movie was shelved and eventually purchased by the Weinsteins...who shelved it. With the closet-cleaning which has occurred following the split between the Weinsteins and Disney, RITUAL has now been released in the U.S. And even those of you who hate BORDELLO OF BLOOD will probably admit that RITUAL is worse.

OK, RITUAL isn't an awful movie, but it's one of those movies where the cons outweigh the pros and the end result is certainly below average. Let's start with the story. The film is a remake of the 1943 movie I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. The screenplay by Rob Cohen and Avi Nesher attempts to mix the wide-eyed innocent in voodoo-land aspects of that movie with a more modern overtly sexual tone. The result is a movie which feels unbalanced and never gels. The action on the plantation (Alice settling in and exploring) and the scenes of voodoo rituals don't come together until the end. In the interim, we are treated to a talky, slow-paced movie.

Films which have been shelved, abandoned, and then suddenly released generally have relatively short running times, as the filmmakers have attempted to whittle the film down to a its bare essentials. This is not the case with RITUAL, as the 106-minute film quickly wears out its welcome. The movie does have a "desperately edited" feel though, as some scenes begin and end without reason and the action often cuts to an innocuous scene and then back to a scene where something is actually happening. I'm sure that those charged with saving the movie were trying to put together a series of interesting events, but that didn't happen. Following an interesting opening featuring some great gore effects by the guys at KNB, the movie then slows down. There are only a few deaths and the scenes in which people succumb to the effects of voodoo by flailing about or hallucinating become repetitive. I must admit that the twist ending did catch me by surprise, but that may have to do with the fact that I dozed off a couple of times during the movie.

I've never seen I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (I don't really do "old" movies...) so I can't compare RITUAL to it, but I can tell you that it certainly pales in comparison to Wes Craven's THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. The movie also lacks the dark humor and overall panache of the other TALES FROM THE CRYPT feature films. The familiar cast is OK, but I'm convinced that Jennifer Grey is wearing the exact same costume that she wore in DIRTY DANCING. Don't make this RITUAL part of your DVD viewing routine.

RITUAL is buried alive on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The source print used for this transfer has certainly seen better days, as the transfer shows overt scratches and black spots. The image is also noticeably grainy. For the most part, the colors look good, but they are somewhat drab and washed out at times. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track fares somewhat better as it provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie clearly has a clever sound design, as there is a nice use of surround sound and stereo effects, and there is some bass response, but the whole things lacks any real oomph. A nice audio display would have assisted this lackluster film.

There are no extra features on this DVD whatsoever, not even the familiar "Sneak Peeks" which accompany most every Buena Vista Home Entertainment release.




No points were allowed.


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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©

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