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“Rituals” isn’t exactly a picnic; prepare yourself for a low-rent version of “Deliverance” with a hint of “Wrong Turn”.

Five doctors go on their annual trip, this time to the wilderness, and find themselves hunted by backwoods maniacs. Let’s dig into 1977’s RITUALS, directed by Peter Carter!

As I See It

More of a psychological thriller than an action-packed woods-based gore fest, this little-known gem from the closing of the Vietnam era packs a ton of substance.

The character building is in line with the likes of Stephen King, who mentions this film as one of his favorites in his book Danse Macabre.

The tension is thick as these five old friends deal with the politics of personalities and the treacherous terrain and unseen human threat. Hal Holbrook’s performance is especially strong and driving.

Once we whittled down to the last two upright doctors (Harry and Mitzi), the dynamic is especially colorful.

The big finale, where we meet the wood-dwelling maniacs, elicits sadness rather than fear.

A deformed man (Matthew Crowley — possible inspiration for Adam Green’s Victor Crowley?) hellbent on killing any intruders scares us not because of his apathy but because he is us. Our fathers and grandfathers who returned from war damaged and unable to turn off their killer instinct.

Famous Faces

Hal Holbrook was Father Malone in John Carpenter’s The Fog, and Henry Northrup in “The Crate” segment of Creepshow.

Lawrence Dane (Mitzi) was in The Clown Murders — which featured the one and only John Candy — as well as David Cronenberg’s Scanners.

Of Gratuitous Nature

The vocabulary will probably stick in a few sides, but for the time, there was nothing egregious beyond maybe the brain-sick veteran.


There is something about Hal Holbrook that is extremely comforting. Like a wise uncle, it feels like he can handle anything.

This role may be more tumultuous than most that we’ve seen him in, but he’s also way more resilient here than his inept character in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.

Ripe for a Remake

The more I think about the plot, the less I think, “that’s been done before.” There are many elements of this story that have popped up through various genre flicks, but as a whole, it is uniquely effective. I think it could stand a fresh take with some seasoned actors and a director with restraint.


No progeny to report.

Where to Watch

Kino Lober, in association with Scorpion Releasing, put out a Blu-Ray with sparse (if any) extras. You can stream on Prime, AMC+, Tubi, Shudder, Fandor, and Plex.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

The Daily Dig brings you hidden genre gems from the 1960s-90s you may have not yet discovered. You’ll get a brief rundown of everything you need to know, including where to watch each title for yourself. Come back each day, Mon-Fri, for new featured titles. CLICK HERE FOR A TIMELINE OF DAILY DIG COVERAGE.

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