The Ruins (2008) - Unrated

Genre(s): Horror / Thriller
Paramount, DreamWorks || Unrated - 93 minutes - $34.99 || July 8, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-07-06


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Carter Smith
Writer(s): Scott Smith (novel); Scott B. Smith (screenplay)
Cast: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson


Theatrical Release Date: April 4, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • Making The Ruins
  • Creeping Death
  • Building The Ruins
  • Deleted Scenes (inc. Alternate Ending)
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Four friends vacationing decide to spend their final days in Mexico visiting ancient Mayan ruins. Located in the vast wilderness, two couples, Jeff (Tucker; Hostage) & Amy (Malone; Into the Wild) and Eric (Ashmore; X-Men Trilogy) & Stacy (Ramsey; Venom), along with a German, Mathias (Anderson), also on holiday, find the temple where Mathias’ brother was camped and excavating. Soon, however, their world turns upside down when a Mayan tribe surrounds them, wielding guns and bows, threatening them. But when one group member steps back onto some vines, all hell breaks loose.

With only one way to escape certain death, the five of them run up onto the temple, hoping to be rescued as the Mayan villagers take up camp surrounding them, making sure no one would leave alive! On top, they hear a cell phone ringing from the excavation site inside. Well, one thing leads to another and soon two members of the group are severely injured but their pain has only just begun as they discover the vines the Mayans fear is actually alive and feeds apparently off of open wounds.

The Ruins is one hell of a ride. Even with some chuckle-out-loud moments – I don’t care how scary the movie is, seeing vines attack someone is kind of funny – but at the same time, this is probably the first horror film in a long while that actually made me squirm in my seat. If not for these visceral reactions, this movie would’ve been just like any other as it has the horror clichés (multiple characters at the ready to get killed, isolated location where help will not easily come, etc).

Carter Smith directs this horror-thriller with tenacity and relentlessness resulting in what is truly one of the most intense films I have seen in a long time. Gone are the quick/fake scares replaced with real fear. It’s not that Smith is some fantastic horror director in the vein of Wes Craven (back in the day) or any of the director's of the retro creature-features, but being this was his feature debut, he does a fantastic job setting up the story and tension.

The Ruins is based on the best-selling novel by Scott Smith who also wrote another fantastic novel-based film, A Simple Plan starring Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton. Smith also wrote the screenplay adapting it from his own work and he does the same with The Ruins. Sometimes when an author writes a screenplay sourced from their own novels can have mixed results. But I guess rather than passing these stories off to a studio lackey (something I think occurs in the horror genre), the author can take control and put in or leave out pertinent material after all, who knows the characters better?

While the story isn’t that complicated (it reminded me of Turistas and The Descent), but the absolute terror takes it a notch above the rest. Sure, there are some unintentional funny (brief) moments, but The Ruins is truly one of the better horror-thriller I have experienced in a while and I have absolutely no qualms in recommending this for any fans of the genre.

Note: Having never seen the theatrical version, I don’t know exactly what has been added. According to IMDb, the theatrical running time is 91-minutes while this one is 93-minutes.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Director Carter Smith and Editor Jeff Betancourt provide an informative feature commentary that delves into how the project came to be and other inside baseball stuff. However, at times this comes across more like an interview with Betancourt asking the questions and Smith answering. Can’t imagine how this would be with Smith alone...

There are 3 featurettes included: Making The Ruins (14:21) is, in part, a standard ‘making-of’ that goes into how the director got this project, how Executive Producer Ben Stiller’s company, “Red Hour”, came aboard (and going against genre) and other little things with behind-the-scenes footage. Creeping Death (15:03) and Building The Ruins (6:18) take a more specific look at areas during production. “Death” goes over how the vines were created and also made so it wouldn’t look cheesy on screen while “Building” shows how the ruins were formed.

The disc also includes 3 deleted scenes (8:15), an alternate ending (1:44) and the original theatrical ending (1:51). The deleted footage is interesting to watch but to keep up the pace, as Carter Smith explains in the optional commentary; they were removed for good reason.

**SPOILER WARNING**
As for the endings, I like the fact DreamWorks included the theatrical ending for those of us who did not see this in theaters. This ending is much more upbeat, all things considered, as the one remaining character seems to get out of there without the infection. The alternate ending is similar to the one in this “Unrated” version, but it shows her getting out with the vine inside her but soon after dies and spreads the, whatever it is, into the United States.
**END SPOILER**

They’ve also been kind enough to include the theatrical trailer (1:14).



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The Ruins is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a fine 2.35 OAR. The picture looks pretty good overall with some nice colors but at the same time, not overly saturated. I didn’t notice much in the way of edge enhancement or general dust/scratches. The filmmakers’ did a good job presenting Australia as Mexico.

Not mind-blowingly fantastic, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds fine. You should be satisfied with the high-quality screams that will come from your home theater system... Also, Graeme Revell’s score sounds pretty decent here as well.



.::OVERALL::.

There’s no better way to put it than what I said in my closing statement: While the story isn’t that complicated (it reminded me of Turistas and The Descent), but the absolute terror takes it a notch above the rest. Sure, there are some unintentional funny (brief) moments, but The Ruins is truly one of the better horror-thriller I have experienced in a while and I have absolutely no qualms in recommending this for any fans of the genre.

The DVD special features are well rounded, but I would’ve preferred more input from the cast (commentary, maybe?). That said, what is there is pretty good given its lackluster box office performance.