"The Ruins" stars off looking like just another generic horror film, with college students Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), Amy (Jena Malone), Amy's best friend, Stacy (Laura Ramsey) and her boyfriend, Eric (Shawn Ashmore) partying away the days and nights on a beach in Mexico. Jeff had wanted to see nearby Mayan ruins, but the majority rules and the majority ruled against him.
However, the group reconsiders when they meet Mathias (Joe Anderson), who tells them that his brother was exploring a newly found temple that's off the map...far off the map. Amy doesn't want to go, but - unfortunately - the majority rules against her - they'll wish they hadn't.
After a long drive into the middle of nowhere and a hike through dense forest, they finally reach the temple, only to be threatened in no uncertain terms by a group of men and driven up the temple. They are baffled and terrified by the actions of the men, who start to build a camp around the temple, seemingly blocking them in - or keeping something else from getting out.
The movie is nicely structured, starting off with a light introduction and moving into an bleak, desolate thriller before eventually turning more towards horror as it's revealed just what those at guard at the bottom are so fearful of escaping (trying not to ruin the movie.) The movie does keep the tension for much of the running time, but there are a few issues, such as the fact that the rather generic ending seems like the filmmakers ran out of ideas.
At 90 minutes or so, the movie feels somewhat compressed (although in an interesting move, Scott Smith is crediting with adapting his own novel for the screen here), and even a little more time would have allowed the filmmakers to give a little backstory to the temple and maybe allowed the sense of dread to grow somewhat further. There's also a neat little trick played on the characters later in the movie by the "villains", and I would have liked one or two more of those situations.
The performances are very good, as the cast doesn't go over-the-top and tries to play the reality of the nightmare situation. Technically, the picture is also solid, with excellent production design, striking cinematography and enjoyable visual FX. This isn't a horror flick without some minor flaws, but it's an enjoyable, intense effort that delivers some good chills.
VIDEO: "The Ruins" is presented in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC) on Blu-Ray, and the results are largely terrific. The DVD presentation was pretty good, but the Blu-Ray remains a winner when comparing the two. Sharpness and detail are noticably improved here, with the picture appearing crystal clear throughout the show. Fine details - hairs, fabric and other elements - were presented with very good clarity and precision. There was also very nice depth to the image throughout, as well.
The main issue was some minor edge enhancement that was seen in a handful of scenes. Some light-to-mild grain is spotted throughout much of the film, but is most likely an intentional element of the cinematography. No print flaws or other concerns were seen. The film's color palette appeared accurately presented and not smeary or otherwise flawed. Overall, this was a very fine presentation of the intentionally bleak look.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. This isn't an extremely aggressive soundtrack, but it's still a very effective one, as the surrounds kick in on several occasions to offer some very creepy ambience. Audio quality was terrific, with crisp, well-recorded effects and clear, natural dialogue.
EXTRAS: The extras are the same - in terms of content - as the unrated DVD edition. However, they are presented here in HD. Director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt offer a full-length audio commentary for the feature and it's an enjoyable discussion of the difficulties that the production encountered on-location, working with the cast, the look of the film, effects and more.
The deleted scenes section offers an alternate ending and, while the first half of the alternate ending is largely the same, the second half of the alternate ending is different and recalls a creepy element from earlier in the story. I can't understand why this wasn't chosen, as it's a far more effective way to end the picture than the ending as-is. There's also the ending as it appeared theatrically (the ending in the unrated version is essentially the same, save for one substantial difference) and three additional deleted scenes.
We also get three moderately in-depth featurettes: "Building the Ruins", "Making the Ruins" and "Creeping Death". We also get the film's trailers and previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "The Ruins" isn't a horror flick without some minor flaws, but it's an enjoyable, intense effort that delivers some good chills. It wasn't given much of a release earlier this year, but it will hoefully find more of an audience on home video. The Blu-Ray offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a nice supply of extra features. Recommended.
The Film B