Movie Review
The Ruins
The Ruins poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published April 5, 2008
US Release: April 4, 2008

Directed by: Carter Smith
Starring: Jena Malone , Joe Anderson , J.P. Davis , Laura Ramsey

R strong violence and gruesome images, language, some sexuality and nudity

Domestic Box Office: $17,427,926
14 of 117
The Ruins doesnít play it safe, and thank God for that.
This oneís a disturbing one, which is a good thing in my book. I donít know if itís just me, but I know other people who feel the same way, in that Iím just tired of horror movies that play if safe; that don't take chances in pushing the envelope in terror. And my other common beef is that you're usually given the promise that nothing bad can possibly happen to a main character you might actually like - God forbid that thing called ďstorytellingĒ might actually surprise you in going against the ďrules.Ē The counter argument, of course, is that audiences donít always like it when you break the rules because it doesnít make them feel safe. Well guess what? This is called a horror movie, and horror movies are supposed to scare you. And if youíre not disturbed after a horror movie, then that horror movie probably didnít do its job efficiently.

I know there is going to be a group on The Ruins who claim that it crosses the line on several occasions, but Iím glad the movie did that or else I may not have enjoyed this movie to the level I did. The audience in attendance was squirming at times, but I didnít sense any overtly negative reactions Ė it wasnít like Cabin Fever where half the crowd came out laughing hysterically over how bad the ending was (and probably the whole movie too in their argument).

There is blood in The Ruins. There are human guts. It gets nasty. Not everything works out the way people hoped. And, might I add, there is also some borderline-ridiculous story elements that might turn off some people. But my argument is that horror is part imagination, and not every single aspect of horror needs to be completely believable to have an effect. Nature itself is prominently on display in The Ruins as horror in the form of plants (yes, plants as in plants in a garden) that haunt the main characters on their vacation in the outback by taking over their insides. Laugh all you want, but I thought this movie did a good job of not making me laugh hysterically over how ludicrous such a story element couldíve instead been. It worked on me here.

Part of this is thanks to the actors involved who do a good job of coming off as regular kids on their vacation; theyíre smart and they act like real people. And they react to their surroundings in the way most real people would react in their setting. These arenít jackasses who tempt each other in dangerous situations to do outrageous things because theyíre morons. These kids have brains and talk out their eerie situations in believable adult-like ways.

And part of the effectiveness of the movie is thanks to the directing in the tone of the whole thing. This movie is creepy. I like this stuff. We need more of these dark movies. Bring it on. Let those people squirm in their seats in discomfort; thatís the true definition of horror. There are people who do go to movies searching for that level of deep discomfort in a film. It may not be entertaining to some people, but that feeling is sensational to others.

There was a horror film called Wolf Creek (B-) in 2005 that someone hated me for recommending. And I bet they hated me because that film disturbed them; isn't that the whole point? The film felt real, as if, holy crap, what I would do in that situation? I think horror is the best when it really gets under your skin on a hard edge. The Ruins doesnít play it safe, and thank God for that.
Lee's Grade: B
Ranked #14 of 117 between Funny Games (#13) and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (#15) for 2008 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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