The sequel to Anthony Spadaccini's Head Case picks up right from where the previous film left off. Even though it embraces the home-movie-look of the first, it's not a complete repeat of style. Spadaccini describes it more like an episode of Forensic Files.
Newark actor Paul McCloskey reprises his role as Wayne Montgomery, a middle aged serial killer who is now a fugitive after his wife was arrested for assisting him in his crimes. Joey Garrison, from Claymont, Del., co-stars as Jared, a street kid who becomes Wayne's protege and newest accomplice.
Brinke Stevens guest stars as Wayne's mother, Julie. What wasn't made clear in the previous is made known here and that's Julie knows that her son is a serial killer. In fact, what this movie establishes is that serial killers aren't the lonely people one might assume. There are a few people who know about them, accept them and want to help them.
The Ritual opens with Wayne talking to his stepson, John Craven, played by Mark Cray. They converse about the danger of sharing their serial killing ways with others. All the while, both acknowledge that sharing it is something that's never out of the question as long as it's done right.
It's implied that Wayne didn't do it right with his wife Andrea and that's why she got arrested. Craven points out the sloppiness of Wayne's recent behavior, which did finally put the cops on his tail. Regardless, Wayne feels as if he wants a pupil, a protege, someone whom he can train to be a serial killer like him. Craven asks him why and Wayne never gives a reasonable answer.
Because of his background, including drug addictions, prostitution and animal mutilation, Wayne thinks that Jared will be a perfect protege and at first he seems to be right, but as time goes on, things start to change. If you've seen Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, you have a fairly good vision of how this is going to play out. In this case, Wayne is Palpatine and Jared is Anakin Skywalker or the future Darth Vader. Of course, we all know in Return of the Jedi how the relationship between Palpatine and Vader ended. Wayne and Jared's relationship meets a similar conclusion.
In the meantime, Wayne and Jared take residence in the home of a drug dealer named Grey Mortimer who has been assisting Wayne for some time now. Wayne tells Jared how to kill people and get away with it, what weapons to use and how to pick the victims, while Jared interrogates Wayne about his past. A conflict slowly builds between the two about who they should kill and why. It only escalates and escalates until it eventually explodes.
If you've been watching the Showtime series Dexter, this will not be new territory. In that show, Michael C. Hall stars as Dexter Morgan, a serial killer in Miami. In almost every season, Dexter has had either a protege or someone to share in his serial killing ways. Inevitably, Dexter and his companion always argue over who they should kill and why. Each time, the same result occurs and it's never with the two serial killers walking into the sunset hand-in-hand.
Spadaccini doesn't litter his sequel with as many dead bodies as the first, but there are still just as many close-ups of his two killers. The movie would basically be one long sequence of head shots, if it weren't for the fact that the director interrupts the movie occasionally with interludes of Jared's musings or Detective John Haynes' investigation that will include a wide-shot here and there or a shot with layered effects.
But, really this film lives due to the presence of Paul McCloskey who is simply an interesting actor. He again creates this personality that is quite compelling. The movie is watchable only when the camera is pointed at him. His look and voice is a weird and funny draw. He does have a strange charm that Palpatine or Dexter could never hope to have. Outside this serial killer role, I seriously would love to see McCloskey star in something else. I like him.
Four Stars out of Five Unrated But Recommended for Mature Audiences Running Time: 1 hr. and 54 mins.