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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Ruins


Starring: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone and Shawn Ashmore
Paramount Home Entertainment
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 18
Available 13 October 2008

Two couples are on holiday when they meet a young German man. He tells them his brother is an archaeologist and currently studying an undisturbed Mayan temple. He is visiting them the next day and asks them along. Although it isn’t on official maps, they locate his brother’s jeep and find the temple off the beaten track. As they mount the steps local villagers appear and mysteriously surround the building. They find tents on the summit, but no sign of life. When the German man falls down a shaft and badly injures his back, the couples attempt to go for help. However, the villagers refuse to let them leave, threatening to shoot them. The trapped couples are extremely short on food and water supplies, but that is not their biggest concern. There is a most unusual predator in the temple which acts as a contagion, and the trigger-happy villagers can not risk it being spread...

I have often spoken of releases which turn out to be a pleasant surprise, but The Ruins is probably the best example of that since I reviewed the video release of Frailty way back when. You expect this to be just another teen movie with forgettable faces treated as cannon-fodder, and you expect the German to lead the Americans into a trap, a la Hostel. The fact that none of these things happen makes you immediately sit up and take notice. In fact, the characters are very strong and suitable fleshed-out by extreme events showing through their emotions - even to the extent that one person’s resolute calmness frustrates and infuriates the others, believing he should be flipping out like them.

There’s real suspense and tension here. The possible consequences of the accident, not being able to get outside help, the severe shortage of supplies, the threat from the locals - and then there’s the unexpected predator. This aspect of the movie is so well-handled that it would be a real shame to spoil the surprise for those that don’t already know. Suffice to say, it is not a normal animal or monster like you would expect. There was a definite danger of this enemy looking tacky and laughable, but to the great credit of the crew it comes across as creepy (literally) and highly impressive. I also liked the fact that this collective sentience carnivore can mimic the ring of a mobile phone and even human speech.

But this film is just as much an exploration of the human condition as anything else; how people will react to extreme situations. The makeshift operation and the culling scenes might make you wince in discomfort, but they are not explicit or gory. It’s what they infer rather than show that makes them effective.

I was going to award The Ruins an 8, but a good array of special features bumps it up a point: Commentary by director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt, The Making of The Ruins, Creeping Death, Building The Ruins, Deleted Scenes, Trailer and Alternate Ending.


Ty Power

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