Horror Movie Marathon: ‘The Ruins’, ‘Shadow’

Hey folks! I went on vacation recently, which is why I haven’t posted in some time. Did you miss me? Well, here’s a pair of vacation/woods/travel based horror flicks in honor of my trip to the great Yellowstone National Park and its environs. Just when you thought you could get away from the dull drudge and grind of your everyday life for some rest and relaxation… you’re killed! Oops!

The Ruins The Ruins (2008) Directed by Carter Smith. Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson, Laura Ramsey.

A group of college students are on vacation in Mexico, just lounging by the pool, when a German traveler invites them to accompany him on a trip to a little known Mayan ruin in search of his brother and everything goes wrong. And how exactly do things go wrong? They get trapped on top of the ancient pyramid and discover it is inhabited by killer plants!

The Ruins is based on the novel of the same name written by Scott Smith, which I’ve read and came away with mixed feelings about. For a horror novel there is a lot of time spent in each of the four main characters’ heads so it drags in far too many places and ends up being overlong. But the menacing plants are handled well and what they do to the kids is pretty disturbing, which is the kind of thing I enjoy in a horror story. Thinking back on the book I might not have given it enough of a chance but I don’t see myself revisiting it any time soon to find out.

The movie by comparison feels too short. I’d have liked something a little more in between, perhaps spending more time with the characters to flesh them out. The plants are much smarter and crueler in the novel; they take a far more active part in manipulating their victims. In the film their actions are less direct, perhaps because after showing the audience too much of the cgi plants they’d start to look more silly than frightening.

Different events happen to different people, which I found a little distracting. The screenplay was written by the author of the novel and, I don’t know, maybe he thought it would be dull to write about the same people performing the same actions. Or maybe it’s his sly way of stating that characters in the horror genre are pretty much interchangeable since all they are is bait for whatever monster they encounter.

I’m trying hard to come up with some thoughts on the movie that aren’t based on comparisons to the book but that’s mostly what I thought of while watching it. The actors are fine, the effects are decent enough. The amputation scene was well done, a classic of its kind. The movie didn’t bore me but I wasn’t fully invested in it either.

Ha! That would make for a great review blurb, wouldn’t it? “The Ruins… I wasn’t bored!”

Shadow

Shadow (2009) Directed by Frederico Zampaglione. Starring Jake Muxworthy, Karina Testa, Nuot Arquint, Chris Coppola, Ottaviano Blitch.

A solider (Jake Muxworthy) on leave from the Iraq war goes on a biking trip in some random European woods, meets a pretty girl (Karina Testa), and terrible things happen to them in the forest. Terrible, predictable things.

I stumbled across this entry while perusing a random horror review site and found it to be touted as Italy’s return to horror greatness, the director following in the footsteps of Bava and Argento. I hunted it down on Netflix streaming and queued it right up. Well, Suspiria this ain’t. Shadow follows several horror movie cliches and then tries to justify them at the end by using yet another tired cliche!

But while its multiple facepalms-worthy script is the main problem, the film does succeed on some levels. The look of it is great; the woods are beautifully shot and the lair of the villain is well designed. There’s something about the cinematography in which I can feel that Zampaglione’s heart is fully invested in the project. I’m curious to see what kind of film he comes up with next. I just hope he picks a different screenwriter.

Also worth watching is actor Nuto Arquint whose look is so striking and who has such a creepy presence you can almost forgive Shadow‘s other flaws just to experience his performance. Seriously, Arquint looks like he was born to star in horror movies.

But the “twist” ending is so frustrating that when it’s revealed you want to smack the screenwriter around. Luckily the film is short at under eighty minutes so if you’re inclined to check it out on Netflix, you won’t have wasted too much time.

Ah, yes, and so we have another great review blurb: “Shadow… not too much of a waste of time!”

Hmm… I’ve been focusing on newer movies so far. It’s time I selected an older one for my next review.

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One Response to “Horror Movie Marathon: ‘The Ruins’, ‘Shadow’”

  1. Michael K Vaughan Says:

    I think the Ruins looks like the more interesting movie to me. At least I won’t be bored.

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