DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: The Ruins

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Ruins


The Ruins (2008) dir. Carter Smith
Starring: Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore

***1/2

By Alan Bacchus

“The Ruins’ released last year earned a modest $17million domestically, but against its meager $8million budget it’s proven to be fine successes in low budget horror. Like its closest cousin “The Descent” it’s a near-perfect execution of the ‘Vacations-Gone-Bad’ subgenre of horror.

The film has a great pedigree – the literary source material is provided by Scott B. Smith, who wrote and scripted the great Sam Raimi drama “A Simple Plan”, Ben Stiller serves as producer, the great DOP Darius Khondji lenses the film and the leads are played by Jena Malone and Jonathan Tucker, a couple of talented former child actors, who always choose interesting projects. Add in Peter Jackson's production designer Grant Major and there’s some major creative talent behind this little horror film.

The story follows four good-looking college students enjoying the last days of their Mexican resort vacation. They meet a fun German dude, who brings them on an off-the-beaten-path trip to an unknown Mayan ruin. Despite warnings by the locals the tourists use their good ol’ American greenback to bribe their way into the uncharted jungle. When they arrive at the ruins, the locals, who only speak an aboriginal dialect, are immediately hostile. They are chased up the pyramid to the top for a siege-style standoff. Once on top they discover the locals are keeping them on the pyramid for a reason and where a much more sinister presents waits.

“The Ruins” would appear to have a bunch of hurdles to surmount – the location is the top of a pyramid, with very little location space to traverse; There’s a mineshaft at the top which creates some wonderfully suspenseful sequences, but there’s only so much one can do with a vertical space; Around the pyramid are the omnipresent locals, but there’s very little interaction or direct conflict against our heroes; And the ultimate enemy remains faceless.

But essential to the horror genre is the location, and in it’s great films claustrophobia is as important as character. Confined spaces helps isolate the characters from the outside world, amplifying their fear and forcing them to confront their assailants face to face. In “The Exorcist” it was Regan’s bedroom, in “The Evil Dead” it was the cabin, for “The Blair Witch Project” the woods confined its characters and “The Descent” used the dark and wet underground caves to create fear. In the “Ruins” Smith, Carter and company isolate their conflict and fear atop an ancient Mayan pyramid.

It’s a wonderful device – a lost pyramid, with a supernatural curse. It’s actually believable.

This is what makes “The Ruins” so effective. Like the first half of the “The Descent”, and even M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” it’s man vs. nature. The location not only isolates their characters against their enemies, in this case, the location is the enemy.

As consequence, character takes a back seat to these hooks and devices. It’s interesting to compare the adaptation of Smith’s first novel “A Simple Plan”, which puts it’s characters above its genre (in that case, a noir). In “The Ruins” genre trumps character. Though four good actors play the roles, they are indiscernible from each other and lack development of any kind. The horror genre forgives this oversight, but fans of “A Simple Plan” should change their expectations.

“The Ruins” should be separated from the pack of sub-standard horror films which bombard us. This one is the real deal. Enjoy.

“The Ruins” is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

8 comments :

barberoux said...

I thought it was an effective thriller that kept me interested throughout. Minor quibbles are the irritating naïve, privileged attitudes of some of the main characters and the stupidity of wearing flip-flops for a trek through the jungle, also the plant mimicry was a bit much. However once the truth of their plight became clear I did develop sympathy for them. I enjoyed the ending. Too many movies have to end on a false positive note and life isn’t typically like that. I agree wholeheartedly that the genre trumps character in this movie and the opposite is true for “A Simple Plan”. (Billy Bob Thornton was great in “A Simple Plan”.)

Andrew D. Wells said...

I went to high school with this director, Carter Smith. This is his first studio film and I believe only his second feature. He did a very small independent filmed in and around our hometown a few years ago. I have yet to see this one, but as a horror aficionado, I can't wait.

Alan Bacchus said...

Small world. Yeah, you should really check it out. I wanna see the indie film he did before getting this one made now too.

sexy said...

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,A片,A片,情色,A片,A片,情色,A片,A片,情趣用品,A片,情趣用品,A片,情趣用品,a片,情趣用品

A片,A片,AV女優,色情,成人,做愛,情色,AIO,視訊聊天室,SEX,聊天室,自拍,AV,情色,成人,情色,aio,sex,成人,情色

免費A片,美女視訊,情色交友,免費AV,色情網站,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人影片,成人網站,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,情色網,日本A片,免費A片下載,性愛

情色文學,色情A片,A片下載,色情遊戲,色情影片,色情聊天室,情色電影,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色視訊,免費成人影片,視訊交友,視訊聊天,言情小說,愛情小說,AV片,A漫,AVDVD,情色論壇,視訊美女,AV成人網,成人交友,成人電影,成人貼圖,成人小說,成人文章,成人圖片區,成人遊戲,愛情公寓,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色小說,成人論壇


av女優,av,av片,aio交友愛情館,ut聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室,色情聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,080聊天室,視訊聊天室,080苗栗人聊天室,上班族聊天室,成人聊天室,中部人聊天室,一夜情聊天室,情色聊天室,情色視訊

A片,A片,A片下載,做愛,成人電影,.18成人,日本A片,情色小說,情色電影,成人影城,自拍,情色論壇,成人論壇,情色貼圖,情色,免費A片,成人,成人網站,成人圖片,AV女優,成人光碟,色情,色情影片,免費A片下載,SEX,AV,色情網站,本土自拍,性愛,成人影片,情色文學,成人文章,成人圖片區,成人貼圖

Anonymous said...

Hey, I don't think he made a feature before this. He had only made a short film. It won at Sundance.

The Ruins was a film I thought I'd dislike, but was really surprised by it. Excellent first feature!

Ana Serrano said...

Glad to hear it was good. Have been avoiding it since I quite liked the novel. It was pretty gruesome. Will definitely check it out.

Alan Bacchus said...

Hey Ana,
I haven't read the book, so I can't guarantee it translates well, but standing alone, its a fantastic flick!
Alan

Alina said...

Well the novel was quite impressive for me & all my friends.Now movie is next to come i will prefer to watch it now.Well also like to watch tv show like House and another is South Park
.
Check them out