Blu-ray Review: Tales from the Crypt Presents: Ritual

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Ritual was the last gasp from the Tales from the Crypt big screen franchise. Demon Knight (1995) and Bordello of Blood (1996) were entertaining horror flicks, each laced with the humor of the Crypt television series. By 2001, when Ritual was given an unremarkable international run, there wasn’t any reason to trot it out domestically. The film was dead on arrival. It finally bowed on DVD in the U.S. in 2006, with a tacked-on opening featuring the famous Crypt Keeper puppet (voiced by John Kassir). This opening solidifies Ritual’s status as a Crypt film, but really this is a B-movie that includes a  few minutes with a dreadlock-clad Crypt Keeper speaking in a bad Jamaican accent. Now it has debuted on Blu-ray from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment.

Jennifer Gray (Baby in Dirty Dancing) stars as Alice, a doctor saddled with a bad rep after losing a patient following the administering of a controversial drug. She takes a job in Jamaica, caring for the mysteriously ill Wesley (Daniel Lapaine). She can’t determine what is wrong, but eventually comes to believe the locals who insist he is suffering from a voodoo curse. She begins investigating and encounters a host of suspicious characters. Apparently, Wesley has been zombified by this curse—though not in the sense of modern movie zombies. Ritual is, after all, loosely based on an old school zombie film, I Walked with a Zombie (1943). Wesley is basically himself, he just doesn’t look or feel too good.

Ritual  poster (173x250).jpgAt 106 minutes, Ritual is way too long. But even if some of its less essential tangents had been cut, it would still be a crashing, humorless bore. Not even Tim Curry, who turns up from time to time, can lighten the mood. Even those merely looking for some good gore and T&A will be disappointed (both are almost non-existent, with only Kristen Wilson—as Alice’s friend Caro—going beyond PG-13). Everything about the film is merely serviceable, although the third act admittedly does provide a pretty effective twist. Be sure to stay tuned after the end credits finish, as there are some “outtakes” from the Crypt Keeper ‘s introduction.

The Blu-ray features a 1080i transfer framed at 1.78:1. Every source I can find lists the original aspect ratio as 1.85:1, so I suppose the slight reframing may disturb the hardest core of OAR purists. Things get off to a rough, rocky start with an insanely crummy looking intro. The opening sequence with the Crypt Keeper is riddled with scratches and dirt. The main feature is far from perfect (it has its share of specs and an abundance of heavy grain) but it’s certainly acceptable for a budget release. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is absolutely nothing to get excited about, but all its elements are clear and well balanced.

No special features of any kind accompany Ritual, not even a trailer. This is a bare bones release in the truest sense. If you’re a Tales from the Crypt completist, try to find it as cheap as possible.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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