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HTF Blu-Ray Review: The Ruins (Unrated)

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted July 05 2008 - 10:13 AM


The Ruins Unrated (Blu-Ray)

Studio: DreamWorks Home Video
Rated: Unrated (with warning that this program is recommended for mature audiences only. It contains adult language and situations.)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH
Time: 93 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL Blu-Ray
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2008
HD-DVD Release Date: July 8, 2008


With the recent proliferation of what is often termed “horror movies”, we have seen a huge spike in slasher and gore flicks falling into that category, but that’s not always the best description. Often times when I see a ton of blood and violence on the screen, I long for the days of Psycho or even the early Halloween pictures where it was the anticipation of what was to come that scared the bejeezus out of me. When The Ruins arrived on my doorstep I was thinking I was in for more of the same, since the trailer makes it out to be a very near relative of a fine British film called The Descent. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Ruins doesn’t spend much time on plot: four college kids vacationing in Mexico meet a German archeologist who is going to visit an ancient ruin. When they get there they find a vine covered and abandoned pyramid like structure. Within minutes, the local villagers arrive with guns, bows and arrows in hand and force the group up the temple steps. When they get to the top, they find a hole leading into the center of the temple, but not the friends of the German, Mathias (Joe Anderson). Mathias decides to delve into the hole to retrieve his buddy’s cell phone which is heard ringing. But the rope breaks and Mathias falls to the bottom. The girls go in to find him with a broken back, but the group gets him out on an improvised stretcher (but still no cell phone). Unable to call out, unable to leave, the group decides to wait it out and hope someone knows they’re missing. Strange things start happening to the group and they find the foliage isn’t all that it seems, and their escape, if even possible, will be much more prickly than imagined.

Since the plot isn’t of too much concern, novelist and screenwriter Scott Smith (A Simple Plan) invests most of his time in the psychology of the characters, the dynamics of the group and the base instincts every living thing has. Their predicament seems to grow worse by the hour, and when they realize why exactly their being kept there by the villagers, the degeneration of hope goes into overdrive. Smith has fun with this aspect of the story, playing on the weaknesses in each of the characters to show just how easy it is to get to someone. Throw in a life and death situation and those jabs get sharper. Even the most optimistic of them, Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), a pre-med student, gives in to trying to escape and comes up with another plan. The hopelessness of the characters drives the plot and causes them to do unspeakable things, both real and imagined, and using the gore factor to make the teenies squirm in their seats. For us, however, it’s that impending sense of doom and the feeling of helplessness that keeps us adults intrigued.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

The picture is framed at 2.35:1, and it is encoded in VC-1 at 1080p. Cinematographer Darius Khondji, who also shot my recently reviewed My Blueberry Nights slightly blows out the picture to make the scenes feel hot and desperate. Colors are slightly de-saturated, but contrast levels remain solid. The picture is set mostly during the day (with amazing effect, especially for a “horror” movie) showing the lushness of the surrounding foliage and the almost naturalistic colors of the characters clothes. Flesh tones are accurate in the context of the increased contrast, and their purity is quickly sullied by the blood and dirt that ensues. Sharpness and detail are good, but both tend to fluctuate depending on the scene. Black levels were good in the few dark scenes we see, but there wasn’t enough detail in the shadows for me. I noticed no edge enhancement in the transfer, and it is free from any dirt or debris.


Audio:
The English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack (the only audio option) is quite active throughout utilizing all the channels to convey a very full environment. Sound fidelity is excellent producing a crisp, clean soundtrack with good tonality across the frequency range, and vocal presentations are accurate. Panning effects are seamlessly conveyed across the channels. Surrounds come up to enhance the various spelunking scenes, providing a good, claustrophobic atmosphere. When the story has us on top of the ruins, the surrounds conveyed wind and other jungle life noises. Bass effects blend in nicely with the rest of the soundtrack but they are used sparingly.


Bonus Material: all of the bonus materials are in HD.

Commentary by Director Carter Smith and Editor Jeff Betancourt: the guys do a serviceable job with plenty of pauses. They expand on a lot of what was already seen and heard in the other docs, and they talk more about the psychology of the characters.

The Making The Ruins (14:23): cast and crew discuss the themes of the movie, while Carter Smith explains some background on the novel and its adaptation to the screen. Khondji explains his working relationship with Smith and they both discuss the location.

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Smith and Betancourt (11:46 total) There are three deleted/ extended scenes, plus the original theatrical trailer and the “never before seen alternate ending” which is used in this version of the movie. Again, nothing really missed from being cut, but the ending on this version of the picture seems less “Hollywood” than the theatrical ending.

Creeping Death (15:05): Carter Smith explains why they had to make some changes from the book, specifically relating to the vines. There is an in-depth discussion about how the vines were made and placed in the movie as well as the visual practical and CG effects.

Building The Ruins (6:20): the practical and CG effects that went into the building of the set , and the difficulties in utilizing only one set.

Theatrical Trailer


Conclusions:
This underrated thriller adopts the tenants of that genre with a healthy mix of horror thrown into the mix, borrowing elements of Little Shop of Horrors and Alive. The psychological terror, the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness push The Ruins ahead of its contemporaries. The disc has a great audio and video presentation with an average set of extras.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 3 OFFLINE   WillG

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Posted July 06 2008 - 02:20 PM

I remember the trailers for this film seeming somewhat scary, but then I wrote this film off when it wasn't even given an advance screening for critics (and the reviews eventually turned out bad anyway) But the reviews I have been reading on the net for the film now that it is being released have actually seemed pretty positive. So, I think I'll check this one out.
STOP HIM! He's supposed to die!

#3 of 3 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted July 08 2008 - 03:51 AM

I plan to pick this one up today, thanks for the review Pat.
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