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Carter Smith
Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson, Sergio Calderón
Writing Credits:
Scott B. Smith (and novel)

Terror has evolved.

Bright sun, warm waters and sandy beaches beckon countless Americans every year, particularly young adults seeking inexpensive fun. Enter Amy and Stacy, two best friends who bring along their very different boyfriends--focused med student Jeff and free-spirited partier Eric. 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 travelers to the top of the crumbling stone structure, where they confront hidden deadly horrors and engage in a brutal battle for survival.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$8.003 million on 2812 screens.
Domestic Gross
$17.427 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 7/8/08

• Audio Commentary with Director Carter Smith and Editor Jeff Betancourt
• “Making The Ruins” Featurette
• “Creeping Death” Featurette
• “Building The Ruins” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Theatrical Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Ruins: Unrated (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 30, 2008)

Lesson for hot college students: never go on vacation. The movies teach us that when attractive young adults head out of town, they run into trouble. Today’s example: 2008’s The Ruins.

Best friends Amy (Jena Malone) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey) visit Mexico and take along their boyfriends Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and Jeff (Jonathan Tucker). While they lounge around the pool, a German tourist named Mathias (Joe Anderson) tells them about a fascinating, little-known Mayan temple they should visit. They decide to give it a look, so Mathias and another tourist named Dimitri (Dimitri Baveas) take them to see it.

Things don’t go well. When they arrive at the temple, the locals corner them and kill Dimitri. The others retreat to the top of the ruins and attempt to deal with the situation. The flick follows the events that follow.

Don’t movie characters ever actually watch movies? Rule Number One: never listen to tour suggestions from helpful, partying foreigners. Granted, Ruins twists this concept, as its non-American tourists don’t attempt to use and deceive our protagonists, but still, after the Hostel flicks and Turistas, you’d think these kids would learn!

When I went into Ruins, I expected movies along the same lines as those efforts – in other words, more “torture porn”. While graphic at times, Ruins doesn’t fall in line with those more sadistic tales. I don’t want to spill too many beans, but it boasts a supernatural bent that makes it different from the others. Indeed, it even veers into psychological thriller territory as our protagonists encounter more and more dire situations.

This establishes that Ruins stands out as different than its peers – does any of this make it better? Yeah – while it comes with some flaws, it definitely tops the other flicks I mentioned.

On the negative side, though it’s based on a novel, it often feels more like it came from a short story. There’s not a lot of plot or character development to flesh out even its modest 93-minute running time, so it can plod at times, especially in its first act.

Matters do improve as the flick progresses, though. Seemingly irrational acts become more comprehendible, and interactions turn more complex. The movie also features an unusually grim tone. Most modern horror flicks of this sort come with a wink, as they take on an ironic feel.

Ruins never does this. At the start, we assume it’ll be another piece of over-the-top fluff, but its serious attitude allows it to become more powerful. We aren’t allowed the ironic distance usually given to us, so we’re stuck in the terror with the characters. Though the film doesn’t portray the participants with enough real exposition to make us strongly care about them, at least it presents events in such a serious manner that we get involved anyway.

I must admit The Ruins crept up on me. I expected little from it, and over its first act, I thought my initial beliefs would hold true. However, the more I watched, the more it sucked me in and involved me in its story. This turns into a surprisingly strong horror flick.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Ruins appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie displayed decent visuals but not an optimal transfer.

Though sharpness usually seemed fine, it occasionally took a hit. Most of the elements displayed good delineation and clarity, but wider shots tended to come across as a bit iffy and undefined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed some light edge enhancement at times, and some shots looked moderately blocky. As for source flaws, the movie was clean; I saw no specks, marks or other concerns.

As for colors, Turistas went with a tropical palette during its early scenes. When the action turned grim, however, the hues went with it, so the film presented colder, desaturated tones. All of these fit the design and looked good. Blacks tended to be a little drab, while shadows were slightly dense. The image was good enough for a “B-“, but don’t expect anything better than that.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Ruins, it seemed positive. Though not a tremendously ambitious mix, it opened up the action well. As one might expect from this sort of flick, the audio emphasized creepy ambiance. The mix conveyed a dire sense of circumstances and worked nicely in that regard. A few more active scenes appeared, but usually the track stayed with this environmental material. Along with eerie music, these pieces filled out the room neatly.

The various elements also boasted strong quality. Speech occasionally suffered from some awkward looping, but the lines remained crisp and natural otherwise. Effects seemed clear and dynamic, with good punch and range. Music was especially positive, as the score and songs demonstrated excellent life and vivacity. I liked the soundtrack and thought it worked for the film.

In terms of extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss how Smith came onto the project, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, cinematography and editing, music, the adaptation of the source novel, and a few other production specifics.

Despite a few lulls, this proves to be a good commentary. Smith and Betancourt interact well, as they offer nice chemistry and cover a lot of useful ground. We learn many interesting notes about the flick in this well-rounded discussion.

Three featurettes follow. Making The Ruins goes for 14 minutes 22 seconds and includes remarks from Smith, producers Stuart Cornfeld and Chris Bender, executive producers Trish Hofman and Ben Stiller, cinematographer Darius Khondji, and actors Jonathan Tucker, Joe Anderson, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, and Shawn Ashmore. The program looks at story and characters, bringing Smith onto the project, the adaptation of the novel, photography and locations. At no point does this threaten to become a comprehensive examination of the film, and it touches on a fair amount of material already covered in the commentary. Nonetheless, it boasts a lot of good shots from the set, and it provides enough useful new notes to merit a look.

Creeping Death lasts 15 minutes, three seconds and involves Cornfeld, Smith, Ashmore, Hofman, Malone, Khondji, Ramsey, Stiller, Anderson, production designer Grant Major, head vine maker Gary Cameron, visual effects supervisor Greg McMurry, prosthetic supervisor Jason Baird, and actor Dimitri Baveas. “Death” looks at the plants key to the story and how the movie brings them to life as well as some related effects concerns. While “Making” went down a general path, “Death” proves much more specific. That makes it a winning show, as we get a fine examination of all the details involved with the film’s vines.

Finally, Building The Ruins runs six minutes, 18 seconds and presents Cornfeld, Major, Smith, Stiller, and Bender. The program looks at the design and creation of the main ruins set. It’s a short but informative glimpse of the subject matter.

Five Deleted Scenes fill a total of 11 minutes, 55 seconds. We find “Rain” (3:06), “Celebration” (2:39), “Going Over the Escape Plan” (2:34), “Alternate Ending” (1:44) and “Original Theatrical Ending” (1:51). “Rain” looks at attempts to survive, while “Celebration” shows the result of that sequence. “Plan” adds a little (unnecessary) exposition, and “Alternate Ending” provides a slightly more ominous twist. The “Original Theatrical Ending” finishes matters on a moderately sunnier note. They’re all interesting to see, but all deserved to be cut.

Except for “Original Theatrical Ending”, we can watch these with or without commentary from Smith and Betancourt. As expected, they give us a little info about the shots and let us know why they got the boot. The commentary proves useful.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Tropic Thunder, Stop/Loss, and Iron Man. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for Drillbit Taylor, Sweeney Todd, Disturbia and Cloverfield. In addition, the disc includes the theatrical trailer for The Ruins.

Though I expected The Ruins to offer the usual Hostel-style nonsense about horny, stupid college kids, I found something darker and more involving than that. It started slowly but eventually became quite powerful. The DVD presents fairly average picture along with good audio and a mix of useful supplements. This release supports a surprisingly effective horror flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2727 Stars Number of Votes: 11
3 3:
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