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Movie: The Ruins


This probably seems like an odd thing for a horror movie fan to say, but I really don’t like gore. It’s not that seeing gruesome things happen to (usually very attractive) people is something that I can’t handle… actually, I’m fine with it. It’s the fact that these movies aren’t horror… they’re just horrible. For the most part they’re just bad movies. And I don’t mean 80’s ‘bad-is-cool’ bad either, they’re just bad!

Typically gore is the poor film-maker’s suspense replacement. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that lashings of tomato sauce (ketchup, for you Americans) and the odd fake eyeball don’t have their place in horror. But cheap thrills in the form of dismembered body-parts is usually a pretty good indication that the movie that you’re watching doesn’t have a whole lot going on under the surface. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, with only a few very distinct exceptions, gore and torture-porn movies are, for the most part, crap… and I don’t mean 80’s crap-is-cool, crap either, they’re just crap and not worth wasting your time (or money) on (IMHO).

Now, I don’t always read reviews of a film before I see it for myself, or at least I don’t go and hunt them down. But that’s exactly what I did when I saw that THE RUINS was being released in Aussie cinemas this week. The reviews that I skimmed were a mixed lot, but one thing that seemed to be a common thread was that the level of gore in this flick is, at minimum, worth mentioning. Which was just about enough to turn me off bothering to go and see it.

I should note at this point too, that The Ruins has been out overseas for quite some time now, in fact it’s already available on DVD in some countries.

I’m glad I did see this movie though, because it’s actually pretty good… For what it is. And what it is, is a pretty, well-budgeted, creature feature that has far better execution than most of the reviews I’d seen had given it credit for. I wont say that the film doesn’t cross the line into cheap thrills a couple of times, and that it wouldn’t have benefited greatly from holding back and not showing the viewer quite as much as it did (less is more, kinda thing). But what The Ruins does manage to do is create a sense of dread, panic and imminent danger.

Based on the novel by Scott B. Smith (A Simple Plan), who also wrote the screenplay, and directed by Carter Smith, The Ruins follows four, twenty-something Americans on holiday in Mexico. Desperate to do something other than see the beach and the hotel pool, medical student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) convinces his girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone), and the couple that they are holidaying with, to embark on an adventure. Bad German accent and tourist Mathias’ (Joe Anderson) brother has disappeared into the jungle to explore an uncharted Mayan ruin, but is late returning to the hotel. Mathias invites Jeff, Amy, Stacy (Laura Ramsey) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore) to join him on the trip to retrieve his brother .

As soon as the cast of the OC arrive at the ruins they quickly learn that they’ve made enemies with some locals, who trap them atop of the vine covered pyramid. They quickly learn what became of Mathias’ brother and what fate may await them, and it isn’t only the locals that they have to be worried about.

At it’s very worst The Ruin is a predictable, brainless horror movie that does very little to advance the genre. It’s obvious ending and plenty of forehead slapping moments will probably turn many off this movie completely. Not to mention that gore. However, for all it’s faults, The Ruins has some extremely suspenseful moments and manages to build enough tension to have you edging towards the precipice of your seat. The performances are solid enough, the film is extremely well shot (albeit a little dark at times) and, for the most part, well paced (not counting the abrupt ending).

As for that gore. Well, yeah, there are a few scenes that’ll hit a nerve of the squeamish, but the gore in The Ruins is all there to show just how desperate things get for these holiday makers, and isn’t there just for the sake of glorifying gore itself. Ultimately Carter Smith has made the best of the material at hand, and in doing so put himself on the list of new director’s to keep an eye on. [source]

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