The Ruins Carter Smith

The Ruins Carter Smith
It is interesting that in a year of mediocre to bad horror films like One Missed Call, The Eye, The Strangers and The Happening that a genuinely tense, brutal, bloody and depressing romp like The Ruins would be critically panned. It manages to subvert cinematic expectations by turning xenophobic audience expectations on their head while shuffling around characters and happenings from Scott B. Smith’s novel and killing off people at unexpected times. Perhaps the bleak outlook, lack of humour and avoidance of a press screening led to some of the bad word of mouth but those looking for an unrelenting, edge-of-your-seat horror flick should give The Ruins a try. The film follows a typically beautiful group of American tourists on vacation in Mexico who decide to journey out into the wilderness to take a gander at some forbidden ruins. Stacy and Eric (Laura Ramsey and Shawn Ashmore), the happy idealistic couple, are particularly keen on the idea, as is pragmatic med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker). Amy (Jena Malone) on the other hand, doesn’t really want to go out into the Mexican unknown, being slightly hung-over and depressed. Needless to say, the group makes a go of it and ignores the many warning signs that come about on their way, including a gang of gun-toting locals who demonstrate some bizarre and erratic behaviour. For those who haven’t seen the movie or read the book, it would be unfair to reveal much of the plot details after the tourists make it to the ruins, as a large part of the impact comes from the unknown. Director Carter Smith demonstrates an impressive ability to maintain a dark and foreboding tone throughout the film while simultaneously framing it with care and beauty. This can also be partially attributed to cinematographer extraordinaire Darius Khondji, who is known for his impressive work on Seven, The Beach and The Ninth Gate. Smith is clearly able to connect with his female characters, getting gut-wrenching and genuinely brave performances from both Jena Malone and Laura Ramsey, but is able to do little with any of the male leads, who have a tendency to stand around slack-jawed. The DVD includes an alternate ending that is far less audience-friendly, in addition to some deleted scenes that appear to have been trimmed for the sake of maintaining the vision of the theatrical ending rather than the original. The featurettes are insightful, thorough and interesting, despite the fact that their division into parts was unnecessary. (Dreamworks/Paramount)