STUDIO:  Dreamworks
MSRP:  $19.99
RATED:  Unrated
RUNNING TIME:  93 Minutes
Theatrical Trailer
Deleted Scenes
Making The Ruins Featurette
Creeping Death Featurette
Building The Ruins Featurette
Commentary with Director Carter Smith and Editor Jeff Bettancourt

The Pitch

“It’s Hostel meets Day of the Triffids!”

The Humans

Director:  Carter Smith
Writer:  Scott Smith (he adapted his own novel!)
Starring:  Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson

The Nutshell

A quintet of young pretty people go hunting for an old Mayan ruin.  They find it and lots of really bad shit happens.

The Lowdown

[DISCLAIMER:  I guess technically this could be considered a spoiler-y review.  But the truth is, if you’ve seen the trailer or, hell, even the poster art or DVD cover, you’ve pretty much already been spoiled.  But just know that going in so you don’t yell at me later.  Thanks!]

The Ruins
is one of those rare movies that really defies any sort of classification.  It’s a genre-bending (and blending) little gem that comes out of left field and gets you focused on the left hand while it sucker-punches you with the right.  And while it rests on a foundation of formulaic and thematic familiarities, it doesn’t rely on them and, instead, does something that a lot of horror movies are deathly afraid to do nowadays – it’s original.  It’s creative and imaginative and it has a pretty fucking big set of balls.

“Yeah baby, I really am an X-Man – I go to Xavier’s and everything.  Wolverine?  He’s a pussy.  All flash – I can totally kick his ass.”

But, perhaps I‘m putting the cart before the horse.

When we open, we meet our four vacationing Americans:  Amy (Malone); Stacy (Ramsey); Jeff (Tucker) and Eric (Ashmore).  They’re immediately likeable and they’re the type of kids you’d actually want to root for as opposed to seeing them become fodder for the inevitable Really Bad Shit.  After they run into another tourist – Matthias (Anderson) – whose brother has gone off to explore an old Mayan ruins site, the four of them decide to join the new guy as he sets out to search for his sibling.

Once the plan is made the five have one last drunken hurrah and then set out on their way.  A few more genre clichés come and go (“It’s not on the map!” “Why is the path covered like that?”  “Wow, those native kids are creepy!” “I can’t get a cell phone signal!” “I have a bad feeling about this!”) our heroes stumble upon their destination and things just get all sorts of fucked up.

As soon as they arrive at the titular locale, one of their group gets unflinchingly emaciated and the whole tone shifts from slightly foreboding to just plain brutal.  And aside from the first kill, there’s nothing standard or formulaic about it.  A young man breaks his back and has to be moved by two women who are barely strong enough to hold him.  A “GET IT OUT OF ME!” scene that’s disgusting and intense and even a little heartbreaking (considering the aftermath) all at the same time.  And if that’s not enough, there’s what’s arguably the most disturbing cinematic amputation of all time.  It’s just awful.  And not delightfully so – it’s disturbing and it’s sickening and it would make even the most hardened genre fans squirm.

And what’s causing all of this?  A slasher?  A native cannibalistic tribesman with a fetish for torturing attractive teenagers?  No – it’s a killer vine.  A murderous, man-eating, killer vine with a penchant for open wounds and a black belt in psychological terror that has seen Creepshow maybe a few too many times.  And I realize how that sounds, but in all honesty – it works.  There’s a scene involving the vine, a flower and a ringing cell phone that might lose a lot of today’s younger, uninitiated horror fans, but it really cemented what the movie actually is at heart.  It’s a 70’s drive-in flick.  It’s got its roots (heh) in the same sort of campy, fantastical scenarios of the old Corman classics, but it does it with today’s sensibilities and standards and finds a way to blend them both without being annoyingly self-aware or leaning too far to one side or another.

Yeah, I really can’t be witty or clever here – I’m too distracted by HAWT.

But the truth is, no matter how violent or how off the wall things get – it’s gotta be rooted in some sort of believability to have any kind of effect.  And that believability comes in the form of our stars.  The performances range from really good (Malone) to fucking fantastic (Ramsey) and cover everything in between.  We’re not dealing with scream queens and dashing heroes.  The characters and their actions never come across as contrived and even if their decisions seem somewhat questionable, they always make sense within the framework of the situation.  Although a lot of credit on that front needs to be given to Smiths, Scott and Carter.  Carter Smith has turned in one hell of a debut effort, though it’s not a flawless film by any stretch of the imagination.  There’s still a bit of baby fat that could have been trimmed and there were small moments that seemed to have trouble holding up the momentum and sort of causes it to slightly drag and deflate.  But then the next big thing happens and we’re right back in it.  I’m not gonna call them “rookie mistakes,” as that’s a bit patronizing, but if he’s starting off this strong I’m sure after a few more notches under his belt he’s really gonna make a hell of a name for himself.

At the end of the day it’s not going to be something you watch every day, nor does it need to be.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a spot on your shelf.  This is a perfect movie to loan to friends who need to expand their horizons a little bit.  Plus it’ll be fun to watch them squirm.

I really don’t know why – but I hear the Sanford & Son theme when I see this picture.

The Package

The artwork is just a modified version of the theatrical one-sheet.  Red instead of blue with the plant girl’s head a little more prominent.  I don’t really like the red and the big “UNRATED” plastered across the top feels a bit awkward.  It’s not horrible and the central image is nice enough to grab attention regardless, but again – I would have much rather seen the theatrical art.

“Dude, fuck it.  To hell with harvesting – we’re just gonna spark this shit and sit here all day.  Where’s my lighter?”

In the feature-department, it’s not stacked by any means, but there are quite a few things to offer.  Obviously there’s the staples – a theatrical trailer and deleted scenes (including the original theatrical ending and an alternate ending).  All the deleted scenes have commentary and, speaking of commentary, you can watch the movie with the voices of director Carter Smith and Editor Jeff Bettancourt coming out of your speakers.  The track is decent – nothing spectacular but it’s fairly interesting.

And then of course there are the various featurettes.  It’s all essentially one big EPK split into little sections and it’s full of the basic talking-head nonsense you hear in EPKs.  It was interesting to a degree, but for the most part it was fluff.  Definitely wasn’t anything that would make or break the disc.

Rocky’s a pussy.

OVERALL 8.5 out of 10