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The Ruins - DVD Review

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</script></div>{/googleAds}We've all heard about the oft-repeated dangers of vacationing in Mexico - be aware of your surroundings, don't drink the water, and don't go off the beaten path. It's this last one that gets best friends Amy (Jena Malone) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey) in trouble while vacationing south of the border with their student boyfriends, Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore) - but probably not because of the expected reasons. Seedy characters and criminal shysters often lurk in the fringes of the tourist districts of Mexico, waiting for their next hapless victim to stumble by. But it's a villain of a different sort that awaits our heroes in The Ruins, adapted from the popular novel of the same name by author Scott B. Smith. We've grown tired of cheap teen slasher flicks and horror films that feature mentally deranged, torturous criminals who kill simply for the sake of catering to the ghoulish cravings of an ever-insatiable audience, so it's actually quite refreshing to get back to terror that comes from anticipating an impending attack rather than the attack itself.

The RuinsWhen the four American students decide to join their newfound friend, German Mathias (Joe Anderson), on a jungle excursion to an archeological dig at an ancient Mayan pyramid, it's the words "not many people know about this place" that mark the exact point in the movie where things begin to go horribly awry. Reluctant taxi drivers, hidden pathways, and mysterious sentinels aren't enough to signal danger. But well-armed local Mayans who encircle the temple forcing our heroes to seek safety at the pyramid's top make a convincing argument that things have turned for the worse. And no one has a worthy plan for getting out of the deadly situation.

No need to go further into the details of what happens next, but rest assured, it ain't pretty! Let's just put it this way the danger comes from more than just the Mayans who've made it known that leaving the site is not an option. Smith carries over some of the supernatural and psychological threats from his novel blame, superstition, evolution, human nature but another 15-20 minutes of these themes would have gone a long way towards rounding out the experience. And at a scant 90 minutes, the added background wouldn't have worn out its welcome. This isn't just a story about something or someone attacking a helpless gaggle of school kids. Much of the film's thrill comes from the self-destruction of the characters themselves. Their internal survival instincts betray common logic in the face of danger and we, as viewers, can't help but wonder how we'd hold up ourselves.

Last year's Bug explored similar themes of the ravages one's own psyche can have on personal well being. And both films disproved the need for huge, elaborate set pieces, opting for smaller, more claustrophobic settings that enhance the fear factor. But unlike Bug, The Ruins brings along a much healthier dose of gore and painful injuries. The film doesn't shy away from maxing out the gross-out needle, but neither does it roll around in it like a dog in poop. Smith clearly understands that true horror comes from what we don't see rather than what we do, and first time helmer Carter Smith, follows that lead by ramping up the fear of the unknown.

The Ruins is not perfect horror by any means. Richer characters and a more robust history of the story behind the real villain (hint: it isn't human), would have made for a much juicier experience. But stripped down storytelling is sometimes the way to go and zipping along from point A to point B certainly works here. It's a creepy-crawly little film that'll get under your skin and bore its way into your psyche if you let it. There's a grim matter-of-fact reality to the story that allows us to posit ourselves in the dilemma unfolding on the screen. And it's also an effective reminder to heed the advice when told to not go off the beaten path.

Component Grades
4 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
4 stars


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Portuguese; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby True HD

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; making-of featurette; bonus featurettes; additional scenes; trailer.

* Commentary - feature-length audio commentary with director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt
* Featurettes
o Making The Ruins (14:23)
o Creeping Death (15:04)
o Building the Ruins (6:18)
* Deleted Scenes -
* Trailers - Original theatrical trailer for The Ruins

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase Packaging


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