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Sunday, April 3, 2011

In the Flesh: Some Quick Thoughts on The Ruins

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These thoughts are infested with spoilers, yo!

Getting the chance to rewatch 2008's The Ruins recently, I found that the film that I had quite enjoyed when it was released still held up very well a few years afterwards. Not that just over two years is a long time or anything, but for a movie that featured a generally young cast and came out over the last five years, it's certainly one of the better ones. Knowing that The Ruins is based off a novel (that I've heard is quite good), I imagine how much better the idea of plants using vibration to mimic sound would work in print, nevertheless, the idea still fares very well on celluloid, even if it is slightly (and welcomingly) hokey. 

For a picture that is filled with what appears to be a soulless, youthful cast on the surface, the characters aren't total idiots and have a strong sense of depth as far as their relationships (or lack thereof) with each other goes. Also, the cast is actually comprised of some solid actors that have worked in films that I already love, as opposed to nobodies that are only there to look pretty and mope around with long grey faces and pouty lips, all upset that they ran out of hair gel (actually, I would be upset too). Speaking of pretty, it's ironic that the hot girl, Stacy, who shows off her nicely maintained body, is the one that seems to get the most physical (as well as mental) abuse out of the four main friends.

She's not necessarily the type of character that seems to be all about her looks thus making her painful plight enjoyable on a sadistic level for the warped viewer. Instead, it plays off the visual aspect of seeing a beautiful woman easily destroy her exterior to rid her body of these grotesque plants that are roaming free underneath her flesh. I know when I get a hangnail, I'll gnaw at that thing until I rip a piece of skin that stretches to my knuckle just to get rid of it (and where's my Oscar for best female performance?!). Sure, that's not really the same thing as plants rummaging around beneath your flesh, but if I'll chew a piece of skin from my finger to my elbow for a hangnail, imagine what I would do if I had a plant in my forehead?!

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The Ruins has an interesting concept and is executed nicely on all fronts, but it's that self-mutilation and the few moments of horrific mutilation in general that make the film most memorable. Watching Stacy cut deeply into her own belly, claiming with a hint of madness that, "It's okay, I just have to get this one (of the plants) out," is quite grueling in such a wonderful way. I think this entire sequence is the most effective portion of the film, however, I cannot be lax in mentioning the double leg amputation from earlier in the film. This is where the mostly deteriorated legs of Mathias have to first be broken with a rock, the remaining flesh cut away with a pocketknife, then a screaming hot skillet is used to cauterize the wound. It's pretty intense. 

I don't want to overextend myself claiming that The Ruins is some masterpiece or anything more than what it actually is, but it is a very good-to-great body horror film, specifically for the time in which it came out and the type of film that it looked like it could be. It was all but ignored at the box office, unfortunately, and I don't think it will be anytime soon where people recognize it for what it is. Nevertheless, give this one a good ten-to-fifteen years, and I believe it may have the right stuff the be a minor cult classic for horror fans that are lucky enough to discover it.     

6 comments:

  1. Dude. Google ate my reply and I don't feel like retyping it all. Short version is I hated the book and hated all the characters within it. I have never been so happy for a character to die than I was when Jeff finally bought it.

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  2. I adore both the novel and film. Yes, the characters are token pretty young people, but I like the fact that there's a few twists where you wouldn't expect them. Maybe I just found it special that the brunette was actually the bitch and the hot blond was more sympathetic, I don't know.

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  3. Unfortunately, the book is a huge disappointment, especially for fans who waited ten years after the author's masterful first novel, A Simple Plan (the one that Raimi made into a masterful movie). Although Scott Smith sets up suspense like a pro and writes nerve-scrapingly grisly scenes (like the amputation), the characters are hardly more likable or relatable than the ones in the movie, and the supernatural element isn't in fact any more believable.

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  4. I haven't read the book, but it seems to me that it would be more impressive than the movie was. I suppose I get tired of seeing the same group of foolish young people. I recently watched "Frozen," and I felt the same way: the suspense was great, but it wore off about half-way through.

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  5. James: Yeah, I can't say Jeff was all that likable in just how much of a busy body he was, and really, none of the characters are the nicest of people, save for Stacy and Mathias. Have you seen the movie, or only read the book?

    Emily: The cast has the marketable looks, and the characters are mostly douchey, but they are interesting to watch. Compare them to characters from, say, the Friday the 13th, Prom Night or The Stepfather remakes, and they have a lot more to them.

    And you are right, for the most part, the pretty blonde girl isn't played off as the usual stereotype, and even Donnie Darko's bitch trying to mack up on Mathias is something more common with the blond bimbo character, not the brunette.

    Anon: I've never read the book, but I absolutely love A Simple Plan, and completely agree that it is a masterful film. I didn't realize it was the same author and find those two stories to be about as different as it gets.

    I wouldn't imagine that the plant elements would be any more believable, but I would more assume that their impact mentally on the victims would play nicely in print. Unless it wasn't used in such a way, wchi would be unfortunate. Maybe I should read the book, but that would be at the end of a very long and slow moving line!

    Rachel: I actually loved Frozen, but I see the twenty-something's in peril portion of the horror genre to be a tight rope walk for horror fans. As much as I like Frozen, and enjoy The Ruins, I wouldn't be able to sit down and show them to someone without have the thought that they might not like it, as opposed to other films that are sure shot wins. A Battle Royale, or something along those lines.

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  6. I've only read the book. My main problem with the book is I had a hard time relating to any of the decisions the characters made. Everything they did was so painfully stupid (not naive, mind you, but flat out retarded), that I pretty much hated them all from the beginning.

    Compare this to Frozen where, for me at least, the characters did things that were dumb, but I could see how they arrived at the choices they made. In the book for Ruins, Jeff looks at his friends, mentally acknowledges they are absolutely not prepared for trapsing around in the jungle....and then goes anyway, with no guide or anything. It was all pretty much a downhill slide from there, for me.

    I actually cheered as each of the idiots died their horribly gruesome death, because in my mind, they did the world a Darwinian favor by dying.

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