Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Ruins

Well, before I begin my review of The Ruins, it is time to announce that I have now reviewed fifty films for the year of 2008. It may well remain this way, but in the end, I might just be able to get one or two more reviews in, most likely a review of Frost/Nixon. But here what I have on my hands is another rather obscure, under the radar horror film by the name of The Ruins. I was made aware of this film and its interesting concept through Mark Kermode's Film Reviews, and managed to find it through a source that I will spare the humiliation of naming. Anyway, in The Ruins, a group of youths decide to accompany a German tourist to a Mayan temple on their last day on holiday, only to find that there are some scary people who force them to take refuge on the roof of the temple. Then, we find out that the floral vegetation surrounding them is carnivorous. Now, to kick off the assessment of this film, what I must say is that this is indeed a rather interesting concept to use for a horror film, and that it feels fresh to watch with the concept being "vegetation as dramatic horror device." The use of the concept by the screenwriters is exploited well, with a great amount of tension being piled on by the idea of plants attacking humans. Also, one thing that I thought came across well was the idea of the plants manipulating the humans to the edge of sanity. This comes across particularly well in the scenes involving the destruction of the reason of Laura Ramsey's character. Also, visually the film looks well, with the Mayan temple in itself as a location proving rather mysterious upon first sight and later on in the film quite horrifying. However, despite the fact that the screenwriters and cinematographer clearly know how to structure and create the scares, that really is the only thing that the film has going for it. For starters, in order to feel truly terrified with what is going on onscreen, you have to feel for the characters who are suffering this horrible madness. With the atrocious acting that is on display in the film, despite the screaming of Laura Ramsey, you might well believe you are watching an episode of Hollyoaks meets The Day Of The Triffids. I mean, we have whorish girlfriends, bolchy leadership pricks, the moaning whinge, the foreign guy and of course, you have to have one guy with long hair and a beard. None of the actors can even take a page out of acting lessons 101 and play a stereotype to believability. Things like this are unavoidable, and it is downright irritating when you realise that this film could be scaring the bejesus out of you, but cannot help but instead notice the over-acting, thus annoying you even more. Also, while the film is well written and structured around the numerous scares, they quite obviously pay no attention to character, as described in the acting rant, or the fact that despite the original concept, clich├ęs inevitably play out as usual. Everyone dies in the order of which you expect them to. I can tell you that by the beginning you know which member of the group is the last alive. Trust me, you would have to be pretty simple not to notice. Also, the film is poorly directed, in a sense where you feel that there could have been so much more to this film. The director fails to fully grasp our attention and notice the weaknesses at hand here, and thus you feel quite aggravated. Carter Smith fails to do the job ably, and I have no problems with first-time directors, but The Orphanage was made by a first-time director this year, and in this case I just feel that with a more experienced director like, say, Sam Raimi, would have been able to handle source material like this with greater care. He would have been able to realise the weaknesses involved. This is material of which an experienced horror director would have been able to pull off, but Carter Smith would quite obviously rather be bathing in bath tub of blood, for at times the tension built is effectively killed by the excessive gore. I'm sorry to go off in a tangent like this, but personally I hate watching films, particularly horror films, in which you know that there could be so much more to it, but nonetheless having them rely too much on scares. Advice to a young director about to make his first horror movie: yes, you are trying to scare people, but the same rules of film-making apply to all genres, thank you very much. To sum up this film, The Ruins is a horror movie that has well structured scares and good visuals to boot, but unfortunately falters in the acting, directing and screenwriting department.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.2/10

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