Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson
Directed by Carter Smith
Distributed by Dreamworks Home Entertainment
Nature can be scary. I mean think about it, man, to this day there are places on this planet that man has never seen. Species that have yet to be discovered. Those of us who think we know it all are truly foolish. Which is why I stick to the safe areas of familiarity. I’m not poking around jungles or diving into the ocean. There are just too many variables. In The Ruins four Americans and one German end up paying the price for being adventurous. Sometimes you have just got to leave well enough alone.
We’re introduced to our characters as they’re partying at a Mexican resort hotel. Margaritas are flowing and the tortilla chips are in abundance. Now that’s what I call paradise! Yet, once they meet Mathias (Anderson), our quartet come to the conclusion that there’s fun to be had elsewhere. Mathias has a map to an old Mayan ruins that’s been undiscovered until now, and even better his brother and his brother’s girlfriend are the ones excavating the site. Why not go out and give him a hand? They could all very well become part of history.
The next day everyone sets out for the middle of the jungle only to find the path to the ruins has been covered over by someone. This is their number one hint to go the fuck back to the hotel. Inquisitive as ever, our troupe forges ahead until they come face to stone with an ancient Mayan pyramid. But no one’s there despite the work that’s supposed to be going on. Hint number two. Just then some Mayan natives come rushing in and scream at the kids to go away while threatening them with weapons. Hint number three. Of course due to the language barrier nothing gets resolved, and violence erupts, sending our budding Indiana Joneses scurrying up the pyramid to safety while the Mayans keep vigil below, making sure none of them escapes. That’s when the shit really hits the fan. Our protagonists have plenty more to deal with than just angry natives. The ruins themselves pose another threat that’s set to ensure that the only history taking place here will be our heroes becoming history after suffering truly violent and unsettling demises.
The Ruins is a movie that hits its intended marks way more than it misses them. Sure, there are a few bumps along the way like huge gaps in logic, but if you can suspend your brain from thinking things like “Are you friggin’ kiddin’ me?” every few minutes or so, you’ll find yourself on one hell of a gory ride. Especially here in this unrated edition. Just about everything extra comes in the form of much longer and better looks at the film’s bloody effects scenes that are guaranteed to leave you feeling a bit uncomfortable. Mind you, you don’t get a lot, but what’s here is serviceable enough to make most watch through their fingers. Also included in this new cut is a different ending. A word of caution — fans hoping for the dark and dire conclusion of author Scott Smith’s written work are not going to find it here in any fashion. While there are three different endings included in this package, the differences in each are for the most part slight. I was really hoping for more. Oh well. On to the special features.
This is the first time we’ve reviewed a Blu-ray disc here at DC, so let me get something out of the way right off the bat … the special features are identical on both the DVD and the Blu-ray releases. The only differences between the two editions are picture and sound quality. If you have a PS3 or a Blu-ray player, I really have to recommend picking up the Hi-Def transfer. In a word, it looks gorgeous. The lush jungles pop right out at you in full 1080p, and the results are nothing short of stunning. That being said … let’s look at all the extra goodness!
Things kick off with a mostly lively commentary by director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt. Though there are a couple of gaps of silence, the duo for the most part keep things rolling along quite nicely by sharing insights, technical tidbits, and just having an all-around good time with it. From there we get three behind-the-scenes featurettes, Making The Ruins, Creeping Death, and finally Building The Ruins. Each clocks in at around the fifteen-minute mark except for Building, which comes in just under the seven-minute mark. Two of the three featurettes are exactly what you’d expect, but the look at the film’s main villain titled Creeping Death is where all the really interesting stuff lies. If you’re only going to watch one, make it that one. Also included are twelve minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary. This section also includes yet another alternate ending (which I liked best) and the theatrical ending, which was easily the weakest of the three. Tack on the trailer, and there you have it — a truly rock solid package!
Though far from perfect, The Ruins is one of those movies that’s likely to garner a much bigger following on home video than it accrued during its brief, almost swallowed-up, theatrical run, and personally I think it actually plays a lot better on the small screen. I must admit though that it’s the extended gore shots that really sell this one for me. There are much more frightening things in Mexico than just the water. Stay the hell at the hotel, people!
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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