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THE RUINS (2008)

The Ruins is a an effectively creepy horror flick set deep in the jungles of Mexico that opens with a young girl huddled in the dark screaming for help, signaling us from the start that something is very wrong and setting the tone for the film. The story then focuses on four young twenty-somethings, med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), his girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone), Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and his girlfriend Stacy (Laura Ramsey) on vacation in Mexico and meeting a German tourist name Mathias (Joe Anderson) while at their hotel. Mathias tells them that his brother Heinrich has met a female archeologist who has taken him to some Mayan ruins and he invites them to join him in meeting his brother there the next morning. Their expedition to the ruins starts off on a disturbing note as they are intercepted by a group of gun wielding Mexican locals who seem to be very unhappy with their plans to enter the temple and kill Mathias’ friend Dimitri (Dimitri Baveas) to prove it. The remaining five flee up to the top of the temple while the gunmen set up a perimeter around it to prevent their escape but, refusing to pursue them any further. But, violent locals are the least of their worries as Heinrich is found dead at the temple’s top and soon the stranded group realize that there is something inside this temple that is a far more dangerous and hungry threat and the gun-toting locals may have good reason to not want anyone to enter the temple or leave it alive if they have. Now the group must find some way to survive, as escape or rescue seems more and more unlikely. Director Carter Smith makes good use of Scott Smith’s screenplay based on his own book and crafts a creepy and suspenseful tale of a group of young people trapped and isolated with a very unique and dangerous life form that is also cleverly conceived and a breath of fresh air from the routine serial killers and rampaging animals. The set-up provides our likable group with nowhere to run and surrounds them with a lethal entity that can’t be frightened off or hurt… something that frightens the locals so much, that they will even kill one of their own to keep it within the temple confines. Carter tensely guides us through the group’s gradual disintegration as they realize help isn’t coming and they are surrounded by something that literally thrives on their blood and is starting to claim them one by one. The attractive cast are fine, presenting a group of likable enough yet, not perfect young people and they all convey the confusion and fear of their situation well enough for it to translate to the audience. As for the lethal threat that surrounds them, director Smith and the FX team successfully give us something that has some really disturbing attributes aside from it’s need to feed and presents us with a novel and chilling ‘adversary’ that we can fully understand why it induces such fear in the locals who are aware of it’s presence. There is also some gruesome and well done gore prompted by the entities’ activities, as well as, some impromptu surgery done by our struggling survivors for reasons I won’t spoil. The film is not perfect. One begs to ask how  ‘it’ became isolated in this one temple and if the locals were able to isolate it here, which has probably been their duty for centuries, why were they not able to fully destroy it. But, sometimes a little mystery can add to the fun and it is amusing to think the answer to the downfall of Mayan civilization was something a lot creepier then sickness or invaders. Overall The Ruins is a fun, disturbing and sometimes gruesome little horror flick that gives us something a bit novel and fresh to fear in the dark… and in the light. An entertaining horror with some nice, clever touches and a unique threat.

3 menaced Malones.

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I’m a big fan of Ryuhei Kitamura’s (Versus, Azumi, Godzilla: FInal Wars) Japanese films, he’s innovative and has a great visual style. I even like Midnight Meat Train a bit, his American debut. So I was eager to catch his newest flick, No One Lives and was sadly, very disappointed.

The film starts out fine with an intense scene of a young woman, Emma (Adelaide Clemens) running through the woods and becoming snared in a trap. So far, so good. Then it cuts to an attractive couple (Luke Evans, Laura Ramsey) driving to a remote motel towing a trailer behind their car. At the same time a ruthless group of redneck thieves are robbing a wealthy home and when caught by the occupants, the family is gunned down in cold blood. Obviously, the two groups are destined to meet and do at a local restaurant. After a tense encounter with the vicious loose cannon Flynn, (Derek Magyar) the gang leaves them be and soon the couple are on their way. They are ambushed and run off the road by Flynn, who leaves them with the hulking Ethan (WWE’s Brodus Clay) to get their PIN numbers while Flynn searches their car…why he doesn’t search the trailer first is beyond me. Instead of finding wealth, Flynn finds the bound and gagged Emma hidden behind a secret panel. Once free, she warns him that they are all going to die as Ethan has already found out. Soon the blood is flowing and this backwoods band of thieves is finding out, in gory fashion, that they messed with the wrong psychopath.

First problem with the film is not Kitamura’s, as the script gives us absolutely no one to root or care for. The thieves are awful people and you don’t care what happens to them, Emma is a droning harbinger of doom, who evokes little sympathy and Luke Evan’s combination of Rambo and Norman Bates is just a robotic killing machine, who is too sadistic and emotionless to work as an anti-hero. We are left with nothing but less then 90 minutes of brutal violence, with absolutely no emotional investment. Kitamura doesn’t even bring his usual kinetic energy to the film as it is very by the numbers and there is little or no tension or suspense, as the next victim’s demise can be seen from miles away. The film looks good and the gore FX are top notch, but there is simply nothing to really get us involved. The script has more holes than the victims. For example, the thieves not searching the trailer, which conveniently carries Evan’s (his character is never given a name) cache of hi-tech weapons. A trailer which sat in front of their house and is obviously full. The remaining thieves also stop at the same motel Evans and his girlfriend stayed at AND pay with his credit card, that Flynn took out of his wallet. Really? All this silly plot contrivance does is give an actor a five minute appearance as a local sheriff. That is it, so what was the point?

No One Lives is just another movie with a paper thin excuse to give the gore FX team a lot to do and hit us with what the filmmakers think are clever ways to grind up faces or explode heads. The actors are all wooden and recite the bad dialog in a monotone fashion, so not even they can breathe life into the cardboard clichés the film passes off as characters. It’s a lame exercise in pointless violence sadly made by a director whose previous work was inventive, fun and gave valid reasons to splatter the screen red, if the story required it. Not much to recommend here unless you are a Kitamura completest, or you don’t mind your violence brutal and pointless.

Rated 2 (out of 4) lethally utilized clipboards!

no one lives rating