Directed By Cater Smith
Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey
The horror film genre more than any other genre goes through cycles. This cycle includes extreme horror, exploitation horror, comedy horror, and back again. Currently we are in the more extreme part of the horror cycle. The last time we were in this segment was in the 1970’s. The difference is that back in the 70’s filmmakers were working in little hole in the wall productions trying to churn out low budget films that would freak out audiences and sell tickets. Also, those films often had unintentional sociopolitical commentary based on the anger of the creators. Nowadays big studios are trying to recreate that energy from the 70’s but instead what they are most often doing is coming off as posers. Showing some blood and filtering the film in blue, green, or sepia isn’t enough to make something truly striking, or even something that’s simply an exploitation film.
The Ruins, based on a novel of the same name, probably wasn’t initially supposed to fall into the torture film subgenre of horror but in the end it does, with a twist.
This film starts off with the major horror film cliché that dates back to the 80’s and that’s sets the pace for a film that I expected to be more unique than it appeared to be in the opening half hour. Like Touristas, and so many other similar films the proceedings are fast paced and slick but painfully predictable. Basically a group of good looking 20-somethings on vacation in Mexico decide to follow a guide to a closed down underground ruin for a look-see. Once the group is on top of the ruin, a pyramid of sorts, local villagers surround the ruin and refuse to let the group come down from it. When one of them finally tries to leave the ruin one of the locals kills him.
Without giving too much away the locals feel they have to quarantine the group due to an evil that exits within the ruin that could infect the group and be spread beyond the pyramid. There are tons of plot holes starting at this point and some sadly missed opportunities. The first half of the film is really fast paced and once the group is trapped on the ruin the film slows way down. Had the filmmaker taken advantage of an opportunity here and dealt with some of the psychological issues of being trapped in plain sight with no food and very little water. Focusing on this abrupt change for the characters would have made the slowdown feel more purposeful and interesting. Instead the film remains fairly shallow and focused on the gore making the slow down feel like a bog down rather than a purposeful change in pace.
A big plot hole (the only one I can discuss without spoiling the movie) comes when we learn that the locals don’t want the vacationers to leave the ruins. So, the locals just stand around the outskirts of the ruins watching and waiting for the vacationers to be killed. The question is, if the locals want to see the vacationers die why not just shoot them all instead of standing around waiting for them to be killed or just die of starvation? There could have been some simple fixes to this plot hole with just a little thought. My favorite fix would have been a reveal that the locals somehow take pleasure in watching the torture of these rich Americans. There could have been some really cool social commentary in that idea. The other could have been that the locals look at this as fate that these people were meant to find the ruins and to act as sacrifice to it so that it will stay contained and not find its way into their village.
The good part here is that there’s some truly surprising gore for such a mainstream movie, even more so in this unrated cut. Considering the ridiculousness of the “monster” the director is actually able to create a few tense scenes here and there. In the end I believe this monster probably played better in the book than it did on screen. Again, this film could have been even scarier if the focus would have been on the psychological and the monster used for the gore and as the device that sets these people off as well as the forced isolation. Overall, as a film The Ruins is not great but for gore hounds it’s definitely worth a look.
The film is presented in 1080p AVC and overall it looks pretty good. With that said the presentation doesn’t stand up to what we’ve learned to expect from Paramount. The blown out color and gritty nature of the source material comes through great but darker scenes get a bit murky with detail dropping more than it should for a new film and there’s a bit of unintentional grain in a few darker scenes. In brighter scenes whites can bloom a bit too. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great, it just doesn’t look as great as it should for a hi def release.
This Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is subtly impressive. This isn’t a bombastic film that will blow out every speaker in your system but the quiet presentation works extremely well with this film. The ambient noise does a fantastic job of selling the tense moments by immersing you utilizing the entire soundstage. Dynamic range is good in the few instances that it comes into play and there are a few instances of great sub woofer use. Dialogue, score, and sound effects are clean, well mixed, and perfectly balanced. This is hi def audio!
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This single disc release comes in a standard slim amaray Blu-Ray case with artwork taken from the original poster art. The cover does a great job of selling what’s to come in this film.
There’s a solid audio commentary with the director and editor of the film. They discuss the evolution of the script from the book source, the special effects, and the test screenings and multiple endings. This is a solid commentary offering some good behind the scenes information about the film and sharing the passion of the director. The commentary actually adds a layer of appreciation for the film.
Making the Ruins is a featurette that does exactly what you’d expect; it covers the making of the film. The director, editor, and the cast all share their thoughts about the film via on set interviews that were taken as the film was being made. It’s your basic “making of” but it’s fairly well done.
Creeping Death is a 15 minute featurette focusing on the monster and gore effects of the film. A lot of work was done to make the gore effects look real and that work is covered here.
Building the Ruins is a really short look at the main set piece for the film that reveals the combination of practical building and CGI that came together to create the ruin.
There’s a set of deleted scenes with the most important of which being a couple of alternate endings. Other than the alternative endings the deleted scenes are just more character stuff and should have been removed from the film. Finally there’s a theatrical trailer.
The bonus features here are brief but well done and on this Blu-Ray are all presented in hi def. Sadly there’s absolutely nothing here that’s exclusive to the Blu-Ray release though.
The Ruins is 90 minutes of missed opportunity. The film is well executed just not well developed. Had as much work been put into crafting an original group of characters instead of these caricatures and a bit of work done on the plot holes this film could have been more than just a gory bit of escapism.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Review 4/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10