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THE RUINS UR
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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: Carter Smith

Starring:
Jonathan Tucker
Jena Malone
Laura Ramsey

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A group of American tourist, with the aid of a fellow traveler from Germany, embark on a visit to an ancient Mayan ruin. Once they arrive, the find that there is something deadly that snakes across the massive and beautiful geography. And neither it, nor the locals are willing to let them get out of the ruins alive.
Is it good movie?
Okay, it seems that many an audience didn’t like the idea of vines and flowers running amok and killing people. Maybe it was because of Little Shop of Horrors that they couldn’t take it seriously. But I hope with the “Unrated” release of The Ruins, people will give it a chance. This is a scary and tense filled parable about man versus nature, and ultimately about man versus man. It is skillfully directed and offers up some terrific performances from a recognizable cast. After watching it a second time, I felt even more that this was a missed opportunity for audiences to get down and dirty with an original horror film. Director Carter Smith takes on his feature film debut by offering up some gory delights but never sacrificing character. The use of natural lighting and the mostly practical effects make for one dark and terrifying film.

The story begins with a group of young twenty-somethings on vacation. When anther German tourist invites them to go check out these Ancient Mayan ruins, they decide to go along. If you’ve read the book by Scott Smith, you’ll know exactly where this is heading. But if you aren’t familiar with it, you may have as much fun as I did. Once they arrive at the temple, a group of locals threaten the group and send them up into the ruins. After a little while in the midst of this strange plant life, they soon realize that those guarding the ruins have no intention of letting them come back down. As they see what nature has in store, they find that they must survive each other as much as they need to fight off the vines that surround them.

The Ruins is one of my favorite horror movies that has found its way into the Cineplex in recent years. I loved the casting, I loved the story and even didn’t have too many problems with the dialogue. I’ve heard some complain about that aspect, especially a line about Americans not being able to just disappear in a foreign country. But I’m guessing that a number of American tourist still believe that deep down inside. I’m a sucker for man vs. nature. But this is a better told tale than most. I appreciate the lack of humor and the seriousness put into the characters plight. I imagine being in this space at this time might be pretty f*cking scary, so I bought it. I also though each one of the main actors including Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore and especially Laura Ramsey and Joe Anderson as the first to suffer from the plants from hell. Both actors, especially Ms. Ramsey have to take their characters to a deep and dark place.

In this special “unrated” cut, there is a little more gore to make you squirm. The amputation scene gets a little nastier, and when Stacy tries to free herself of the things underneath her skin, it is a bit more grotesque. With all that said, the “never before seen ending” didn’t necessarily work for me. I didn’t hate it, but I liked the less obvious original ending which is also on this disc under deleted scenes. In fact, one of the movies strengths (or weaknesses depending on your taste) is the unknown factor throughout the film. I liked the lack of explanation because sometimes the mysteries of nature are a little more interesting then having it all made clear. Sometimes, simple is better. Yet if you’re afraid that killer plants may make you laugh hysterically… I recommend maybe just giving this a try, it might just get under your skin.
Video / Audio
Video: This 16x9 Widescreen transfer is terrific. It brings out the natural lighting used throughout the film quite nicely.

Audio: Is it just me, or did they seem to be recording the volume on this DVD very low. This 5.1 Surround seemed to be turned down low. But when the unsettling score sounds great when you turn the volume up.
The Extras
As far as the Special Features, I’m happy to say that the Ruins were treated with a little respect.

First off, there is a Commentary with director Carter Smith and the films editor Jeff Betancourt. This is a very positive hour and a half as both of these guys have nothing bad to say about anyone involved in the film. But they do offer up the fear of an audience having the wrong reaction to the killer vines. I did find their talk very entertaining yet I would of loved to hear them talk more about the “unrated” edition and what was added in.

In Making The Ruins (14:24), I found it fascinating to watch executive producer Ben Stiller talk horror. I like the fact that he made this film. In fact, I like that a lot. It is nice to see a major Hollywood actor support this genre. This is also an interesting watch as they talk about making the film and the differences between it and the book.

Next up… Creeping Death (14:50). If offers up an overview of the killer vines. The director is in full realization that some audiences will not accept vines that kill people. Although, my personal belief, there is a whole lot of stuff in nature that we may never have a complete understanding of… so killer vines? Absolutely. Oh yeah, you get to see how they made the vines here and of course, how they kill with gooey gory goodness. And luckily the prosthetics are pretty amazing in this film. You see it all in Creeping Death… good stuff.

You want to see some Ruins? Well check out The Making of The Ruins (6:16). We get a glimpse of how production designer, Grant Major (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) created the actual sets. I liked this feature, they did a nice job at making a creepy looking location for a horror flick. Good stuff although a bit short.

The Deleted Scenes include “Rain”, “Celebration”, “Going Over The Escape Plan” and the “Alternate Ending” or if you’d rather watch what you saw in the theatre, the “Original Theatrical Ending”. You can watch them all with commentary from Carter Smith and Jeff Betancourt, which I always like to hear why they didn’t use a certain scene. But watching the deleted scenes, I think I would have like to have watch Rain and Celebration in the context of the film. These are good scenes, but the filmmakers felt the pacing didn’t work. Eh, probably true. As for the Alternate Ending, it is pretty ridiculous. I didn’t like it at all, but hey, check it out and maybe it’ll make your vine grow. My personal favorite is the original ending.

And finally, the Original Theatrical Trailer which I still feel sold the film very well without giving too much away.
Last Call
The Ruins is one of the most underappreciated horror films in years. It is terrifying and the man versus nature versus man is unsettling and holds up well on second viewing. It doesn’t hurt that Laura Ramsey is fantastic as she finds whatever is growing in the ruins, growing inside her. The rest of the cast is also quite good including Shawn Ashmore and Jena Malone. I really liked Jonathan Tuckers subdued performance. He does solid work here. And another stand out is Joe Anderson as a German tourist who gets up close and personal with the evil that surrounds him. Damn I felt bad for this guy, and his strong show makes it easy to care. Director Carter Smith has created a well crafted horror entry that offers up enough smarts, gore and scares to satisfy most lovers of horror. He also has a little help thanks to Scott Smith, the author of the novel, who offers up a good translation from page to screen.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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