Rituals (1977)

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What a cover! It takes me back to the halcyon days of VHS where the eye-catching cover art was usually, but not always, more interesting than the actual film. Ironically enough, the cover art of this limited German DVD release of Rituals (1977) is taken from the US and UK VHS releases and is already out of print even though it was released late last year.

I have wanted to see this film for sometime, a rare Canadian entry in to the ‘backwoods’ horror sub-genre popularised most recently by Wrong Turn (2003) and more famously The Blair Witch Project (1999) that is very hard to find let alone in it’s original uncut form. The story is highly conventional, five doctors go on a fishing break in rural Canada only to be terrorised by an unknown, seemingly invisible killer. Despite the generic plot this is a genuinely stylish film with some excellent performances from Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane and an uncomfortable atmosphere. It is far from a masterpiece but as a low budget horror film Rituals does its job quite nicely. Though it is not overly gory there are still some scenes which may unsettle the hardest of horror fans, the shot featured on the front cover may stay with you for a while.

In terms of presentation, apart from a censored bootleg US DVD available in one of those cheap DVD multi-packs, this is the DVD premiere of Rituals. UK label Nucleus Films did consider releasing this title but upon seeing the print offered by the rights holder decided not to bother. Apparently, X-Rated Kult DVD, the German label behind this release, were also offered this print but declined and sought out another print which belonged to a private collector. I dread to think what the print offered by the rights holder looks like as the print used for this DVD is very poor. The print is very badly damaged and colours washed-out. Some scenes are so dark that at times it is difficult to make out what is happening on screen. From what I have heard Rituals has never looked good on any home video release and it will probably stay like that for some time until a transfer is struck from the original negative if that is still in existence. But for the rarity of this film and the great cover this is a welcome release from X-Rated.

As I mentioned earlier, the release featuring this particular cover is now out-of-print and very difficult to find. I purchased mine from the very friendly Chainsaw Video in Holland and they may have another copy left. But fear not, Rituals is also available in another cool cover which is still in print and be ordered from Chainsaw Video and Xploited Cinema.

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