Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Ruins




Directed by Carter Smith and written by Scott B. Smith that is based on his novel, The Ruins is the story of four college kids and a German tourist who go to a mysterious Mayan temple unaware of what is there as it relates to some mysterious vines. The film is an exploration into the unknown where some young people venture into an unknown land as well as deal with Mayans who are protecting a piece of land they fear. Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, and Joe Anderson. The Ruins is a chilling yet unsettling film from Carter Smith.

Four American college kids meet a German tourist as he has a map to a mysterious Mayan temple that is considered off-limits where they make a discovery that proves to be the biggest mistake of their lives. It’s a film that has a simple premise about a Mayan temple that is filled with these vines, plants, and flowers that has some strange power as these tourists find themselves stuck on top of this temple not just surrounded by these plants but also Mayans who are trying to quarantine what is at the temple. Scott B. Smith’s screenplay doesn’t just play into the horror at the temple but also five people trying to survive as they are unaware of what they’ve gotten themselves into. Especially as there is a naiveté into where they wanted to go as locals don’t go there and why it’s not on any current map. Once the five are on top of the temple trying to survive as one of them is severely injured, they also are forced to face the realities that help might not ever come. It’s an intriguing aspect of the script as it does stray from conventional character plot-points in favor of something that is psychological but also with something that feels real.

Carter Smith’s direction is very simple for the way he creates that sense of tension and uncertainty that looms throughout the film once it’s set on top of this Mayan temple. Though it is set in Mexico, the film is shot in Queensland, Australia not just for the beachside locations in the film’s first 20 minutes but also for the setting of jungles with the top of the temple shot on a soundstage. While Smith uses some wide and medium shots to establish some of the beauty of the locations, much of the direction emphasize on the latter to capture some of the suspense into what the characters would encounter. The scenes inside the temple are some of the most chilling as it play into something that is frightening.

There are moments where the film is psychological as the location and the surroundings for these characters add to the terror where one character becomes paranoid. Even in moments where it does become quite extreme such as a scene where a character had to have his leg amputated or someone trying to get vines out of her body. All of which as a mean to survive no matter how dire the consequences are. Overall, Smith creates a gripping yet eerie film about tourists going to a mysterious Mayan temple filled with deadly plants.

Cinematographer Darius Khondji does excellent work with the cinematography from the usage of somewhat de-colored look for some of the daytime exteriors to the eerie scenes at night as well as inside the temple. Editor Jeff Betancourt does nice work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and horror as well as maintaining something that is straightforward. Production designer Grant Major and supervising art director Brian Edmonds do amazing work with the look of the temple interiors as well as its top roof and the hotel rooms the characters were staying early in the film. Costume designer Lizzy Gardiner does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual as well as the grimy detail into the blood and dirt that would be on the clothes.

Hair stylist/makeup supervisor Shane Thomas does superb work with the makeup in some of the moments involving blood and other things to play into the unforgiving nature of what the characters had to go through. Visual effects supervisors Leo Baker, Matthew Gratzner, and Gregory L. McMurry do fantastic work with the way the plants moved in the scenes inside the temple as well as how the flowers moved. Sound designer Dorian Cheah, with sound editors John Marquis and Sean McCormack, does brilliant work with the sound to play into some of the eerie and disturbing moments in the film as well as how the flowers would mimic the things the characters said as well as the sounds outside of the temple from the Mayans. The film’s music by Graeme Revell does wonderful work with the music as it‘s a mixture of ambient electronic pieces to play into the suspense along with some orchestral pieces for the intense moments while the soundtrack features a few traditional Mexican pieces, dance music, and a song from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The casting by Denise Chamian and Ben Parkinson is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Bar Paly as an archeologist in the film’s opening sequence, Dimitri Baveas as a fellow traveler who is immediately killed by the Mayans, Karen Strassman as the vocal effects of the vines, and Sergio Calderon as the Mayans’ chief. Joe Anderson is superb as the German tourist Mathias as the guy who has a map to the temple as he gets a serious injury in an attempt to find a phone that belongs to his brother. Shawn Ashmore is excellent as Eric as the comic relief of sorts of the four American tourists who becomes a realist as he wants to try and make a run to the jeep so he can get some help.

Laura Ramsey is fantastic as Stacy as a young woman who gets injured in an attempt to retrieve Mathias inside the temple where she becomes infected by the vines as she becomes paranoid. Jena Malone is amazing as Amy as a young woman who is the first to unknowingly touch the vines as she is the most reluctant to visit the temple as she copes with the situation she and her friend are in. Finally, there’s Jonathan Tucker in a brilliant performance as Jeff as a med student who is the most sensible of the four Americans and Amy’s boyfriend as he tries to raise morale as well as be the one who responds to the severity of the situation in how for all to survive.

The Ruins is a remarkable film from Carter Smith. Featuring a great cast, an intriguing premise, and some superb technical work, it’s a film that strays from some of the conventions of horror in favor of exploring characters and what they try to do to survive. In the end, The Ruins is a marvelous film from Carter Smith.

© thevoid99 2016

2 comments:

Wendell Ottley said...

Glad you like this one. It is a really underrated, and unfairly forgotten film. I really had a good time watching it, as it is pretty intense.

thevoid99 said...

One of the values of re-watching a film is see why this film is kind of lauded as I read that Edgar Wright thought it was one of the finest films in horror. I thought it was alright when I first saw it but subsequent re-watches helped this film as it is very underrated and needs more of a chance to be mentioned.