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THE RUINS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson
Director: Carter Smith
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Dreamworks
Features: See Review
Length: 93 Minutes
Release Date: July 8, 2008

的知 not okay. I知 not okay. You keep saying I知 okay. I知 not okay.

Film ***

Horror movies today are usually more concerned about the spectacle of gore more than anything else, which is why a movie like The Ruins is something of a treasure. Here痴 a movie that perfectly illustrates what makes a scary movie really frightening. It relies more on escalating tension, while delivering the gore only in spots and in a most inventive and spine-tingling manner.

First-time director Carter Smith has done a superb job in crafting an impressive production, something that also seems to be missing from the horror genre. Though the story setup may seem familiar at first, once it delves into the terror and its particular setting it becomes a pure horror movie original. Not to mention the most decent acting from the young cast. The Ruins is full of surprises.

Just like he did with his book A Simple Plan, novelist Scott B. Smith adapts his own best-selling book to a most strong effect. The story centers on four vacationing college students in Mexico during spring break. Med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone) are touring the country with friends/fellow couple Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey).

Upon meeting German backpacker Mathias (Joe Anderson), who is planning an expedition to a newly discovered pyramid, the four decide to tag along. One taxi ride and long hike later, the group has made it to the base of the huge temple. At first it seems like an amazing discovery.

But that proves otherwise when they are cornered by what appear to be town villagers, armed with pistols and bow and arrows. When they kill the group痴 tour guide for simply walking towards them, it痴 clear that they don稚 want any of them to leave. With no other choice, the group find themselves trapped on top of the pyramid, with a very low supply of food and water.

If you don稚 know much about the plot, or even if you happen to have seen the brief trailer for the movie (which was smart to not give anything away, for once) I seriously hesitate spoiling details about what happens for the remainder of the movie. They aren稚 exactly shocking plot developments, but rather numerous revelations involving the characteristics of this pyramid, which upon discovery are remarkably creepy. What I will say is that a number of events happen, all of which really made my skin crawl in a way few recent horror movies have been able to do.

Story setup aside, The Ruins is refreshingly unique and most terrifying experience as far as the modern horror movie is concerned. From what I can sense, Carter Smith is a fan of John Carpenter and appears to be the iconic horror movie director痴 unique way of escalating tension in a single setting. Being that I知 a huge Carpenter fan, that quality is definitely a plus.

Another huge surprise is the acting in the movie, which at no point feels either horrendous or overdone like in so many movies in the genre. Jena Malone has long been a favorite of mine and when she lets out a fearful emotion, you buy it instantly. And I could only imagine what the beautiful Laura Ramsey had to go through to prepare for the amount of physical and emotional torture her character goes through.

To top it all off, The Ruins has an ending that, for once in a horror movie, doesn稚 feel like a total cop out. While it痴 no milestone ending like The Mist, it痴 satisfying in that it concludes at just the right moment. At the same time, it doesn稚 sell out and maintains a sense of dread, which lingers around the movie after the first twenty minutes.

To sum it up perfectly, The Ruins delivers the goods. If you consider yourself a true horror movie fan, and also appreciate good production values, then you are in for a serious bloody treat. I can稚 say the same for those looking to vacation below our border any time soon.

Video ****

Dreamworks delivers a most riveting presentation with this release. The picture is nothing but a truly bright and colorful quality for daytime sequences, while delivering equal quality to the nighttime scenes. From beginning to end, you get a thoroughly sharp and incredibly detailed image.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix really delivers in bringing the horrific atmosphere right to your living room. Once the action shifts to the pyramid, sounds come from every possible angle. And those sounds play a pivotal role in making the skin crawl. Music score and dialogue delivery are also as top-notch as it gets.

Features ***1/2

A nice fortress of extras on this Dreamworks release. First off, I can tell you that this Unrated version had definitely tweaked up the gore factor right down to the bone, no pun intended. Extras-wise, we get a commentary with director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt, three behind-the-scenes featurettes; 溺aking The Ruins, 鼎reeping Death and 釘uilding The Ruins. We also get Deleted Scenes, as well as both an alternate ending AND the Original Theatrical Ending (the ending in this Unrated version is altered just a tad bit). Lastly, there痴 the Theatrical Trailer and Bonus Previews.

Summary:

The Ruins is without question the best non-independent horror movie to come from any big studio in a good long while, and that痴 a huge compliment since that rarely seems to happen. It痴 consistently frightening and delivers furiously in the gore and suspenseful departments.

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