The Ritual by Adam Nevill really is the best hiking-trip-horror novel that I have ever read.
The story revolves around four old university friends – Luke, Hutch, Dom and Phil – who get together to embark on a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. As their journey progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that they are no longer young men, and that together with the physical problem of middle-age spread, each one has his own emotional demons to contend with. This streaming brew of volatile emotions often spills over into heated arguments with each other, a collective tension that is only exacerbated when, after they have taken a wrong turn into the forest, the rather strange, perturbing events in the Nordic wilderness start to unfold.
As the four friends suddenly find themselves lost, hungry and encircled by a seemingly oppressive forest unvisited for many years, they come across a deserted house deep in the woods. When they set foot inside the decaying building, they discover the eerie remains of arcane rites and pagan sacrifices. They also find bones from unidentified persons and ancient artefacts.
As the four men begin to experience horrific visions, terrifying nightmares, and are hunted down, one by one, some unnameable, bestial predator, their hiking adventure eventually becomes a desperate fight for survival amid an atmosphere of increasingly blood-curdling, claustrophobic terror. The vast Scandinavian wilderness is no longer their inviting friend, but their mortal enemy.
Once again, British horror writer Adam Nevil has done a great job in chilling readers to the bone with his brilliant evocations of mounting unease, perilous journeys into the unknown and terrifying images that stay with you long after you have finished the book. The Ritual is the perfect lost-in-the-woods novel to
curl up with on a cold winter’s night, making you feel so thankful that you are safe in your warm comfortable home rather than out their, with these four ill-fated hikers, in those deep, dark, Scandinavian woods. I particularly love the way the author describes every aspect of the quartet’s situation, be it the smells, sights and sounds of the vast, oppressive woods, or the icy, almost palpable sense of growing unease they experience. And when the presence responsible for the group’s torment is finally revealed . . . well, I won’t spoil it for you by revealing too much. Suffice to say that you will be completely blown away by the heart-stopping climax.
The Ritual was made into a 2017 feature film directed by David Bruckner and written by Joe Barton. I have now seen the movie, and whilst the ending was somewhat different to the book, I still enjoyed the film immensely, as I thought it translated Adam’s book well for the big screen. Also, I thought the four actors who played the hikers did an awesome job in their respective roles. It was really great to see these characters, with all the emotional baggage that I had read about in the book, come alive visually, against the backdrop of the vast, foreboding Scandinavian wilderness.
So if you love the lost-in-the-woods kind of horror story, get yourself a copy of The Ritual (which you can purchase by clicking on the book’s image above this article). I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
By Alan Toner