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Soundtrack review: The ritual (Ben Lovett – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The ritual (Ben Lovett – 2018)

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“The Ritual” is a 2017 British horror film directed by David Bruckner and written by Joe Barton. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Adam Nevill. The film stars Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier and Sam Troughton. A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them. Ben Lovett wrote the score.

The latest score I heard from Ben Lovett was his lovely minimalistic Americana composition for “American Folk”; I am pretty sure “The ritual” will be an entirely different affair. The opening cue “Four tents” surprises me with a very wooden, tribal sound that probably evokes the forest; the woodwind instruments and the tortured strings start the party before a wall of sounds ends the cue abruptly. I have got to say that Ben Lovett did a very clever thing going for the tribal percussion because these raw sounds make me think both of a forest and of rituals. The constant presence of the tortured strings gives a feeling of uncertainty that adds to the visceral atmosphere of the score. I like this savage, addictive sound, it’s something I very rarely hear on a movie score. When the tortured strings tire and go quieter the music shifts naturally to a more reflective, ambient sound.

Even as I start to get used to this sound there is still room for surprises as the same sonic elements combine differently in “Stalker” to give create a chilling and creepy mood where I feel like I need to be looking over my shoulder. The terror is real but not obvious which makes it even more efficient. I am literally inside a nightmare while listening to this score with the sounds coming from all directions, be they constant wooden poundings or quiet, menacing strings and percussion. The music is dark, the atmosphere is dense and to me the way to determine just how scary and effective a horror score is is to listen to it in broad daylight and see if it scares me. It might be light outside but I can’t see it because the music obliterates everything without ever getting loud.

It does get frantic at times like in “Search for Hutch” and I just feel the need to turn the volume up. There is no two ways about this, “The ritual” score is horror music done beautifully right and without any cheap tricks; the composer brings the deep dark forest to us and the feeling of being stalked, of being watched and constantly in danger never leaves the music. This is “Alien” on steroids and it’s all about the atmosphere. When Ben Lovett also inserts an ambient, reflective gem like “I can see the end” it only makes me love this score even more. I’m sure you will as well. The year has just started and Ben Lovett is 2 for 2, taking an early lead in the race for composer of the year 2018.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 24 / 41

Album excellence: 59%

Highlights:
The Ritual
Mates
Stalker
Search For Hutch
Piggyback
I Can See the End
To Hell With This
We Worship It
Wrong Turns
Fear God
Monsters

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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