III - The Ritual

Director: Pavel Khvaleev | Writers: Aleksandra Khvaleev, Oleg Mustafin, & Evgenia Mustafin | Release Date: October 2015 | Rating: No MPAA (German/Russian film)

The human mind can be a freaky place to explore. Just ask poor Ayia. She gets a first class ticket to poke around inside her sister’s subconscious and finds it to be a place of torment and agony. Not exactly an ideal vacation spot. But Ayia isn’t visiting for fun. She’s there on a life or death mission. Ayia and Mirra are sisters living in a desolate and tiny European town. A pandemic strikes the little hamlet and claims the life of their mother. Sadly, it’s not long before Mirra also becomes sick from the completely debilitating illness. Ayia turns to their close family friend (and priest) Father Herman for help. Herman reveals that such an illness needs a supernatural solution when traditional medicine falls short. Possessing shamanic books and knowledge, he teaches Ayia how to enter into her sister’s troubled mind. By getting into the nasty, nitty-gritty of the subconscious, Ayia should be able to see what issues are holding Mirra captive in her own brain. Such a journey can only take place between two people who share a deep bond. Bravely, Ayia accepts the challenge in order to save her sister.

Now, this is a horror film. So...as I hinted above, some pretty weird and scary things are going down in Mirra’s subconscious. A movie such as this must rely heavily on visuals. Musty, dreamy, sepia tones transport the audience to this sad and depressing place. Mirra’s world can be described in one word, HELLISH. Fans of Tarsem Singh’s 2000 thriller, The Cell, will feel right at home here. Besides being striking feasts for the eyes, these two films even share the concept of entering the depths of someone’s mind. I like this device. After all, what’s more frightening than what a person is capable of imaging? It leads to endless possibilities. Especially when it comes to symbolically hiding behind their fears and traumas.

As you probably noticed, this is a German/Russian made film. You’re going to have to read subtitles unless you speak Russian. Subtitles are fine by me. In fact, I prefer them over being subjected to sucky dubbing. Actually, there isn’t a ton of dialogue in the movie to begin with. I would rate this as being an above average horror movie worth checking out. Most credit is due to those trippy and beautifully composed visuals. There is certainly a lack of character development. Especially in terms of our heroine, Ayia. I found myself wishing I knew more about her. I was rooting for her to succeed, but there was a missed opportunity there. As someone who is super close to her older sister, I have a bias for stories which feature siblings sacrificing themselves in order to save one another. I won’t lie to you, all in all, the plot is a little sparse. However, despite some imperfections, I still liked taking this weird excursion into a nightmare.

Don’t neglect foreign horror movies, my friends! There are plenty of gems to be found out there. Oh, and please don’t ask me to explain the title. I only kind of understand how it relates.

~ Sandra (@LilMsMnstr)