What the hell is that in the woods?
This morning, Netflix released V/H/S, Southbound, and The Signal director David Bruckner‘s The Ritual (review), which follows a group of college friends who reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.
While the film truly is a kitchen sink of horror, it is a creature feature at heart. We caught up with Bruckner to discuss bringing Adam Nevill’s novel to life and how he interpreted the film’s big bad.
“I think one thing about [Nevill’s] book is that the reader must actively conjure the images the author is describing,” said Bruckner in an exclusive conversation (full interview later). “So you have a hand in co-authoring the design every time you encounter something on the page. No matter how artfully Nevill described the creature, or Moder as it’s called in the novel, it was always shifting a bit in my imagination. For example is it bigger than before? Does it seem more sentient than at first? Also, in the book, it’s female, which we learn later and shades things somewhat differently.”
“With a movie though, one has to get very literal with all that,” he continued.
“And we always knew this was a show-the-damn-monster kind of flick.
“So I wanted to preserve my own experience of reading the book, wherein the creature’s design is somewhat shifting. Or at least you have competing ideas about what it might be. We dug into Norse mythology and discovered a Jötnar clan of giants that were known as shape-shifters and would sometimes present with combined human and animal qualities. It felt close enough to what Adam had imagined but gave us a little room to experiment.
To get the look he wanted, he collaborated with the concept artist behind Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, as well as Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Pacific Rim.
“I reached out to Keith Thompson, who I was a huge fan of, and was very fortunate to have him come on board,” Bruckner explained. “He experimented with those ideas and provided many different possibilities (as well as concepts for the decrepit parishioners, the effigy in the attic, and the hanging elk.) It all tied together and told a visual story. The beast design we finally settled on was simply the one I couldn’t take my eyes off of. I think anyone who’s familiar with his work can tell through and through that this is one of his uncanny creations.”
The Ritual is now streaming on Netflix everywhere.