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Bright sun, warm waters and sandy beaches beckon countless tourists every year, particularly young adults seeking inexpensive fun. Enter Amy (Jena Malone) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey), two best friends who bring along their very different boyfriends -- focused med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and free-spirited partier Eric (Shawn Ashmore). As the group's vacation nears its end, they journey into the lush Mexican jungle in hopes of seeing some ancient Mayan ruins. But when they arrive at the magnificent site, an unexpected event drives the frightened travellers to the top of the crumbling stone structure, where they confront hidden deadly horrors and engage in a brutal battle for survival.
For more about The Ruins and the The Ruins Blu-ray release, see the The Ruins Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 2, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson, Sergio Calderón
Director: Carter B. Smith
» See full cast & crew
The Ruins Blu-ray Review
Will this movie ruin your Blu-ray collection?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 2, 2008
Four Americans on a vacation don't just disappear.
A horror movie about a group of teenagers in imminent, nasty peril? What a novel concept! I just cannot believe nobody has ever thought of this before. Truly, the world of moviemaking will never be the same after The Ruins. Yet another novelty brought to this Blu-ray edition of The Ruins is the brilliant marketing strategy of selling the movie based on a large "UNRATED" banner printed across the top of the box. No matter that the movie is good or bad or mediocre, as long as it's unrated, that's sure to sell it! Now, what else do we need to do to sell you this movie? Ooh! Let's completely rip off the cover art seen on one of the best horror movies in years, The Descent! Everyone loves The Descent! Maybe we'll even trick a few people into buying this when they think they're getting Neil Marshall's movie! Now if we can just add one more selling point to the cover. I know! A blurb from a critic telling people how scary the movie is! Yes! Make it from Aint-It-Cool-News.com! Everyone loves Aint-It-Cool-News.com! No doubt about it, thanks to the superb box cover design found on this Blu-ray, not to mention the movie contained thereon that offers a story that is both fresh and groundbreaking, The Ruins is sure to be the biggest seller in Blu-ray history.
In all honesty, The Ruins is not a completely terrible movie in the vein of the most ridiculous horror films of all time, like One Missed Call and The Hills Have Eyes 2, two of the standard-bearers for truly inane horror. However, it offers absolutely nothing new, either. The Ruins is the tale of four college-aged individuals on vacation in Mexico. We have a fairly standard set of personas here, including the medical student, Jeff (Jonathan Tucker, In the Valley of Elah) (it's always handy to have some medical knowledge in a horror movie for those pesky times when your best friends may require amputations or other minor surgical procedures); the shy one, Amy (Jena Malone, Pride and Prejudice); the risqué one, Stacy (Laura Ramsey, The Covenant); and the macho one, Eric (Shawn Ashmore, X-Men: The Last Stand). When a young German named Mathias (Joe Anderson, Across the Universe) invites this quartet to visit some ancient ruins, they agree to go, unaware of the terror that awaits. Upon arriving at the site where they discover an ancient temple, the group of friends find themselves confronted by several locals who shoot and kill Dimitri (Dimitri Baveas in his first role), one of Mathias' friends who came along, forcing the survivors to ascend to the top the temple. More locals appear below, setting up camp and a perimeter around the ruins. Slowly but surely, our quintet of survivors discover the secret of the ruins, and find themselves facing death from either a horrific foe atop the temple or at the hands of the locals encircling it from below.
I had several of the film's closing moments pegged long before they appeared on-screen, thanks to the completely horrific approach the film takes to its stereotyping. We know exactly which character will survive the ordeal and once we know the secret of "the ruins" we know what one of the last shots of the film will entail. Scream had it exactly right. These films are almost laughably predictable, and The Ruins is no different. Granted, it held my interest from beginning to end, which is a major accomplishment for a teenagers-in-peril horror movie, but as far as offering fans anything new, the movie is a failure. As expected, gore rules the day, and there are several stomach-churning scenes that are as nasty as anything seen in films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake or Hostel.
Based on a novel by the same name and written by Scott Smith (who also wrote the novel-turned-motion-picture A Simple Plan), The Ruins is material that translates well enough to film, but the oh-so-typical approach taken by the filmmakers "ruined" the potential. There are some creepy atmospherics, great camera angles, and beautiful scenery, but the film starts off with your quintessential horror movie teen quartet and never manages to shake the stigma of "typical horror movie." The Ruins falls into the trap of hedging its bets on massive amounts of gore rather than genuine chills and psychological terror. Gore is seen aplenty, and one scene in particular would have been much more effective had the camera lingered on the reaction of the characters to the gore rather than focusing on the gore itself. The scene in question features two characters huddled together in a tent as something which causes great agony to another character is underway, and the reaction of the two characters, who cannot see what is happening, would have worked better than the in-your-face gory approach the scene chooses.
The Ruins Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Ruins entangles Blu-ray with a highly impressive 1080p, VC-1 encoded, 2.35:1 framed transfer. The movie might not be all that great, but this transfer is exceptional. After the movie's initial scare scene, which features deep and excellent black levels, the tone changes and the image becomes one that features a bright overhead shot of a jungle with highly detailed, well-defined, and beautiful greens. The film then switches again to introduce us to our main characters where they are poolside under a bright sun that shows off all the numerous colors and details in every frame. Water beads on and drips from faces of individuals fresh out of the pool and other nice, clean, bright details are always to be seen. In chapter two, when the group arrives in town as they prepare to head to the ruins, amazing detail is again ever-present. Take a look at the yellow pickup truck that serves as a taxi to the location. All of the rust, wear, dings, and dents on it come through with startling realism. Once in the ruins, the fantastic black levels hold up. The film offers a stark contrast between the bright, sunny, well-lit and beautiful top of the temple (where most of the action takes place) and the depths of the interior where darkness and shadows rule the day, generally lit only by torches or lanterns. No matter how the interior is lit, the black levels remain true and creepy, and the tension of each scene located in the interior is multiplied as a result. The stomach-churning gore stands out in excruciating detail. The many gruesome sequences are going to be a treat for gore fiends, and if this transfer is any indication, Blu-ray and 1080p are going to become the horror fan's best friend very soon. Flesh tones are accurate and hold up as such in every lighting condition the movie throws at them. I noted one instance of some serious ghosting around one of the characters atop the ruins around the 27:40 mark. Still, The Ruins is a fine looking disc and is another in the growing list of great looking titles Paramount/DreamWorks has been releasing since their return to the Blu-ray format.
The Ruins Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Ruins gets inside your skin and provides listeners with an appropriately creepy, chilling, and engaging Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack, and this disc sounds just as good as it looks. One of this disc's strengths is its wonderful and nearly constant ambience. The relaxing sounds of the ocean waves and seagulls permeate some of the film's earlier scenes. There is some excellent directionality that is never too over the top, but is rather just the right volume to make the action and environment sound all too real. Once our fodder, I mean stars, arrive in the jungle and at the ruins, atmospherics work overtime to create a palpable sense of incredible realism and tension. It's never too pronounced or phony. It is simply perfect, making us feel like part of the group as they traverse the jungle floor and ascend to their fate atop the temple. The attack sequences offer up a wide array of loud, deep, spooky sounds that include a cacophony of non-human screeches. Dialogue is excellent, from the lowest whispers to the loudest screams and everything in between. The film's score, courtesy of Graeme Revell (The Condemned) never dominates a scene but rather adds to it; the music blends effortlessly into the back channels but remains focused up front and it, like the rest of the soundtrack, is an all-enveloping sonic experience. The Ruins offers listeners a fine soundtrack that works hard to elevate the scares and tension of the movie, and it's probably due as much to this soundtrack as any other aspect of the film that I remained as entertained and engaged as I was in an otherwise tedious picture.
The Ruins Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Ruins fleshes itself out with a solid selection of supplemental materials. First is a commentary track with director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt. Both participants are lively and engaging, discussing the background of the project, decisions made to set audience expectations, filming locations, and other standard-yet-interesting tidbits. Betancourt takes on the role as the interviewer, leading director Smith to various discussion topics and the two have a chemistry that results in a fine commentary track. Making the Ruins (1080i, 14:23) examines the film's "creative challenges." Also included is the cast waxing poetic about the deeper messages that they believe the movie emotes. Perhaps the best segment of this feature is the examination of the differences between the novel and the shooting script. Creeping Death (1080i, 15:05) is a solid look into the making of the film's "enemy" and various special and gory effects seen throughout the film. Building the Ruins (1080i, 6:20) is a short piece that examines the building of the film's primary set. Three deleted scenes and two endings: the alternate ending and the original theatrical ending (1080p, 11:46), all with optional commentary by Smith and Betancourt, are next. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 1:15) concludes the supplements.
Also of note is that this is the second Paramount new release disc in a row that has failed to work in my Panasonic BD-30 Blu-ray player. Drillbit Taylor worked the first time I loaded it, but subsequent efforts to load it in the player failed. My copy of Face/Off failed to load in my Playstation3 as well. Hopefully Paramount/DreamWorks will begin implementing better quality control and compatibility checks with future discs.
The Ruins Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Ruins left me wanting to know a bit more about the hows and whys of the plot; we never really learn the history of temple or why the film's enemy behaves as it does. Perhaps that will be explained in The Ruins 2, if there will be such a thing. With a meager $17,000,000+ box office return, it's not likely. However, you just cannot put anything past the "bad horror sequel" industry these days. Paramount has delivered another fine looking and sounding disc with The Ruins. Horror aficionados should eat this one up; Paramount's 1080p video transfer brings out all the gore in agonizing detail, and the accompanying soundtrack elevates the tension of the movie quite a bit. With a handful of decent supplements that are presented in high definition, I expect The Ruins to be a hit on Blu-ray among horror film fans, and to them alone this disc is recommended.
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