Friday, March 10, 2023

The Ritual Killer

Who better to catch a serial killer than an eighty-something year-old anthropologist? It probably makes more sense than asking another serial killer for help, especially since Dr. Mackles is an expert in Muti, the traditional spiritual medicine practiced in Southern Africa. It appears there is a rogue practitioner committing sacrificial murders to benefit his clients in George Gallo’s The Ritual Killer, which releases today in theaters and on VOD.

The guilt Det. Lucas Boyd carries after his daughter’s death has left him nearly non-functional, except when chasing violent criminals, who then bear the full brunt of his rage. He and his partner start investigating a trail of bodies mutilated with surgical precision that lead to the mysterious Randoku. The large, scarred man definitely stands out, but he is still frustratingly hard to catch.

To interpret the African writing and exotic spices found at a crime scene, Boyd enlists the help of Dr. Mackles, an African Studies professor, who is clearly freaked out by them. Initially, he tries to play cool and beg off the case, but he inevitably starts advising Boyd on the Muti aspects of the ritual sacrifices.

That all sounds like a passable premise, but the screenplay (unpromisingly credited to three scribes: Bob Bowersox, Francesco Cinquemani, and Luca Gilberto) proceeds in such an orderly straight line, it turns into a total snooze. At least the one moment of lunacy at the end gives viewers something to remember, but the rest is the stuff of mediocre 1990s TV-movies.

The legendary Morgan Freeman looks about as bored playing Mackles as he did in the underwhelming
Vanquish, which was also helmed by Gallo (maybe Freeman should stop working with him). The saving grace is Cole Hauser, whose hard-boiled brooding as Boyd is better than the film deserves.

Frankly, former NBA athlete Vernon Davis has a pretty sinister presence as Randoku. He too is better than expected, but he cannot overcome such a dull storyline. It is also a bit surprising Gallo and company had the guts to make their bad guy an African spiritual practitioner. The “de-colonizers” probably won’t approve, but what they should object too is the predictability and flatness of the writing.

Unfortunately, besides Hauser and Davis, everything else about
Ritual Killer is average or mediocre. It’s just not worth your time. Not recommended, Ritual Killer releases today (3/10).