When The Ruins opens, it doesn’t look quite so promising. We’ve got two American couples sharing a vacation in
While the characters are pretty much interchangeable and underdeveloped, it doesn’t seem to matter that much. There isn’t any standout performance to talk about here, but the totality of the work is effective. Truth be told, you won’t get to know them very well, and it will be awfully hard to really tell them apart. Still, they become as much of a threat to themselves as the vine. Here’s where the film escapes the
Some of this material also appears in my Intotheblu.com review of the standard DVD.
The Ruins is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer takes full advantage of some wonderful locations and cinematography. Colors are pretty natural. There is an early beach vista that is almost as nice as the HD version I found on the Blu-ray. Once we leave the beach, the rich green colors and textures offer incredibly life-like representations. There’s a nice use of contrast at the temple location. The plants themselves are vivid. The contrast of the green vine against the red flowers is exceptional. If the transfer is weak anywhere, it is in the black levels. I was very disappointed in the level of shadow detail of any kind. Fortunately this is one of those horror films that doesn’t rely a lot on darkness to be scary. I watched both the Blu-ray and standard DVD versions of the film and found these dark scenes to be identical in quality, while the normally lit elements are far superior in HD.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track delivers without ever overdoing things. Each location is accompanied with the appropriate level of ambient sounds and dialog levels to paint that particular place and time with both splashes of realism and just enough trickle of atmosphere. I won’t say the sub offered a ton of response, but the film does have its moments. In every respect the sound is a wonderful compement to what the video is providing.
There is an Audio Commentary with director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt. Carter, in particular, has a lot to say, and I found his comments to be both entertaining and more informative than usual.
So, what is the unrated version? I did not see the original film at the box office, but it appears likely that this “unrated” version is simply a collection of extended bloody scenes which neither make nor break the film.
Deleted Scenes: There are 5 new, extended, or alternate scenes here. You have the option to play with or without commentary (except for the last one) and there is a useful “play all” option as well. Apparently one of the “unrated” changes was a different ending on the home release. If you saw the film at the theaters, you get the ending you saw then here as a deleted scene. Having not seen the original version of the film, I found the ending provided here to be satisfying.
Making The Ruins: I have to say it feels a little odd watching producer Ben Stiller talking about a horror film. I guess I have him too well defined as a comic to not feel like something’s out of whack. There are plenty of interview bites here, but you won’t get more than some upbeat chatter. They acknowledge the campy history of maneating plants in the cinema. Hey, they tell us they don’t even have a problem calling it a horror film. Go figure. It runs for about 14 minutes.
Creeping Death: The star of the film for some will be the vine itself. One of the crew members accurately expounds that if you don’t believe in the vine, you won’t believe the story. This is a more comprehensive look at the artwork and CG work that went into creating the killer vines. It runs about 15 minutes.
Building The Ruins: The mesa at the top of the pyramid and the temple itself are nice set pieces. The combination of practical location enhanced with CG makes it a convincing setting.
I found this film to be one of the more original horror efforts that I’ve seen in at least a little while. The script is clever, and the atmosphere manages to convince without requiring much out of the actors themselves. They’re merely another set piece here, and the true genius has to go to the set designers and the director for using these pieces in such an inspired way. I was particularly impressed with how the film avoids laying too much on the creature, instead making the characters’ own flaws and weakness as much a part of their ultimate plight as anything else. When I sat down to watch this movie, I wanted a horror film that didn’t look like 20 others I’ve seen recently. “That’s all I wanted.”
07/12/2008 @ 1:19 pm
I watched it last night and was hoping to steal away the reviewing duties, but you did a fine job, Gino. I read the book and liked it and I think they stayed as true to the book as they could have. There were also a few good surprises and changes made to the script to shock the people who read the book, expecting to be on autopilot since they know what happens. The characters in the book were never really identifiable by anything other than their actions, although they did break down into “types”. The hero, the slacker, the book-smart girl, and the slut. I think this movie got a bit mis-marketed and it probably hurts that Turistas came out a few months before, even though they are similar looking movies, they are pretty different. Anyway, I really liked this film. It creeped me out and created a good sense of dread just like the book did. I highly recommend it.
07/12/2008 @ 5:49 pm
Thanks for the input. I really need to read the book. The Making of feature talks about how the characters were switched around from the book, along with other changes. Overall it was a pretty clever film. There’s a tad more on the film over in my Blu review at Intotheblu.com. Didn’t know anyone else was planning the film,sorry. Good points.