MARCH 26, 2008
If there is one plotline that doesn’t hold much promise, it’s “Four college kids are attacked by killer vines. That talk.” And if you want to sell it extremely short, that’s exactly what The Ruins is. But as it turns out, not only is it much better than expected, it’s the best horror movie of the year so far. Take THAT, One Missed Call!
The movie is based on a book (by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay) that I haven’t read, and is directed by a guy I’ve never heard of (Carter Smith), and stars some folks who don’t often star in anything. And like I said, the plot didn’t really hold much promise. But everyone involved gave it their all; an A-Game approach to a B-Movie. The surprising R rating is well-earned, with some truly brutal and shocking moments (such as the first onscreen child killing in a horror movie in ages! YEAH! The movie’s got some goddamn balls!), and some truly impressive (but thankfully sparse) gore as well.
It’s also the rare survival horror film in which actual survival elements are implemented. 30 Days Of Night completely botched this part up, with a 30 day time window seeming more like 30 hours, partially due to the fact that getting food/water was never once an issue in the film. Not the case here; we see them rationing their limited food, crafting stretchers and such out of what they have on hand, etc. The main character, Jeff (well played by Jonathan Tucker, making up for his annoying performance in Bruce’s Hostage) is the most practical of the four, and watching him use his head and think things through was very refreshing.
The other three are good too. Jena Malone starts off as an annoying and whiny drunk, but comes into her own as things get worse for the group. Shawn Ashmore (Iceman!) and Laura Ramsey are the other two, also impressively more than just attractive kids in a horror movie. There are no stereotypes – they are all intelligent (and about equally “famous”), which makes it far more difficult than usual to peg which ones are going to be goners.
Smith also did a fine job of translating what has to be the silliest part of the book (besides the concept itself) onto the screen – the talking vines. Like I said, I haven’t read it, but those who did have told me that this was something that wouldn’t work onscreen. But I think it does, to a degree. The vines don’t talk in a traditional sense, like Audrey II or whatever, but instead mimic the sounds they hear, which include human voices. Apparently it was a bit streamlined from the book, but it seems natural, and is only used twice (to disturbing effect) in the film to boot. It’s nowhere near as disastrous as William Goldman’s attempts to visualize the “memory warehouse” in Dreamcatcher, something that was actually pretty awesome in the book but wholly idiotic when seen on screen.
The movie also contains one of my favorite lines in recent memory. When the kids are all despairing that they will die out there, Jeff tries to calm them by exclaiming “Four American tourists don’t just disappear!” Oh man. I lost it. Of course, the film had already reminded me of the sadly underrated Turistas (during the opening 20 minutes), and anyone familiar with these types of movies should enjoy the line as much as I did.
I should also point out that I saw the film on the Paramount lot. On the way to the screening room, I saw a building with a sign reading “Film Vault”. You can bet your sweet bippy that I wanted nothing more than to bust my way into that place, find the My Bloody Valentine footage that they cut for MPAA, and run off into the night, armed with the knowledge that I was doing the entire horror community a giant favor. BUT, I didn’t.
Please go see this movie, and not Prom Night. They are opening around the same time, and I would really really hate for Hollywood to get the message (again) that an unnecessary PG-13 remake is somehow a better financial investment than an intelligent, suspenseful, and at times downright disturbing horror movie. Come on now.
What say you?