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DreamWorks presents
The Ruins (Blu-Ray) (2008)

"The police, our parents, the Greeks, somebody. Somebody is going to find us. We just have to be alive when they do."
- Jeff McIntire (Jonathan Tucker)

Review By: Matt Serafini  
Published: August 08, 2008

Stars: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore
Other Stars: Sergio Calderón
Director: Carter Smith

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for Strong violence and gore, nudity and language
Run Time: 01h:33m:12s
Release Date: July 08, 2008
UPC: 097361385846
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I’ve always considered horror to be my favorite genre. I suppose that comes from the fact I was introduced to it at an age when I still should’ve been watching Disney flicks and family fare. As an adult, I’m still a horror fan but it’s hard to ignore the ever-increasing disconnect I feel with the majority of modern genre offerings. We’re living in an age when virtually every other horror release is a lackluster studio remake or a PG-13 piece of teen tripe. Originality seems to be a concept as foreign as the Asian horror flicks Hollywood is addicted to remaking. And yet, once in a while, a genre film comes out that does hit its mark and make an impression. The Ruins is one of those films.

The premise is simple: Four college students on vacation in Mexico decide to check out an archeological site of Mayan ruins. Before long, they find themselves trapped there, and under siege by a malevolent force lurking inside the ruins.

The Ruins coasts a long way on this simple premise because it does a very good job of establishing its young protagonists as believable characters. It focuses on their fight for survival rather than turning the proceedings into another nature runs amok film. Director Carter Smith allows us to revel in their increasingly dismal situation and chooses to explore the psychology of his characters. When the proverbial chips are down, we see how the dire situation begins to affect each character. Most memorable would be Laura Ramsey’s performance as the would-be sex bomb, Stacy. Her emotional breakdown is nothing short of heart-wrenching, particularly under the macabre circumstances of this story. This works to give the film more heft than other films of this ilk and the end result is an unexpectedly gripping horror film.

The cast is superb (with the aforementioned Ramsey being the standout) and director Carter Smith stages some impressive moments of chills and suspense. The ruins of the title are in the middle of a Mexican jungle and Smith (along with cinematographer Darius Khondji) offer us some eye-popping cinematography that heightens the isolationism of our imperiled vacationers and gives the overall film a more prevalent sense of dread.

I’ve deliberately strayed away from spoiling what little plot the film has. That’s because when I saw the film in theaters this past winter, I knew absolutely nothing of the premise and was pleasantly surprised by the way in which it unfolded. There have been some criticisms leveled against The Ruins for its overt simplicity and I’m fascinated by folks who can cite that as a detriment. Arguably the best horror films are the ones with the most simplistic of storylines: masked lunatic stalks babysitters on Halloween, or several strangers hole up in a desolate farm house amidst a zombie invasion. I wouldn’t presume The Ruins to be as good as those films, but in this age where things are over explained to the point where any and all mystique is destroyed, the streamlined approach taken here is certainly refreshing. After all, I'm of the mind that the best horror films are often the most simple.

A ferocious psychological horror film, The Ruins is a terrific little gem that went ignored during its theatrical run (while the lame-brained rehash of Prom Night went on the gross over $40 million at the same time--way to support the team, horror fans!). DreamWorks has packed this Blu-Ray disc full of worthwhile special features and a stellar audio / video presentation to encourage folks to give it a chance. Fast-paced, well acted and affecting, this is one of the best horror films to grace theatres in some time. I offer up an enthusiastic recommendation for this one and assure you that this Blu-Ray will not disappoint any fan of the film

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I was very please with DreamWorks' MPEG-4 encode of The Ruins. The sun-baked Mexican skies are bright, crisp and detailed, placing the viewing on the vacation with our main characters. The night time scenes loose none of the quality, either. Blacks are solid once we move into the interior of the ruins with powerful detail all the way through. Overall I was very happy with this encode.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby TrueHD track is a showstopper, reveling in the quiet and spooky atmosphere of the ancient ruins. The action and carnage will work your surround speakers, will the talkier bits loose none of their power either. If you've got a good sound system, watch this sucker loud for the full effect.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Deleted Scenes
2 Alternate Endings
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Carter Smith, Editor Jeff Betancourt
Packaging: standard Blu-ray packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The Ruins creeps onto home video with a wealth of solid bonus features. The audio commentary plays out like an interview between Betancourt and Smith. A comprehensive discussion about all levels of the production, including significant changes from Scott B. Smith's novel.

The first of three featurettes Making the Ruins (14m) is featured in HD and, like the commentary, covers all areas of production. There isn't a lot of new information to be gleamed here, but it's cool to see Ben Stiller (one of the producers) show up for a moment.

Creeping Death (15m) is also in HD. Unsurprisingly, this is a look at the effects work for the film.

Building the Ruins is a look at the production team's construction of their set. The collection of deleted scenes aren't terribly impressive, but the alternate endings are well worth looking at and certainly serve as an interesting contrast to the ending that was ultimately chosen.

The HD theatrical trailer rounds out this set.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

A psychological horror flick with some moments of gruesome gore and thrilling suspense. This deadly little Mexican vacation is well worth the time of anyone looking for an effective scare show. With this Blu-Ray release you'll be right alongside our ill-fated vacationers, reveling in every last gory detail.



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