"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 by Dreamworks in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality was mostly terrific, but a few minor issues did intrude at times. Sharpness and detail were mostly first-rate, as while a few scenes did appear slightly softer than the rest, the majority of the film appeared crisp, clear and well-defined.
Aside from a touch of softness on a few occasions, the other concern was a few instances of mild edge enhancement. Otherwise, the print appeared pristine and no instances of artifacting or additional concerns were spotted. Colors of the jungle appeared rich, bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "The Ruins" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This isn't an extremely aggressive soundtrack, but it's still a very effective soundtrack, 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: 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. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a nice supply of extra features. Recommended.
The Film B