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07.09.08

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Phaedra

The Ruins, Unrated

One disc; DreamWorks Home Entertainment $29.99

By Michael S. Gant


I didn't see the theatrical release of The Ruins, but I'm guessing that the graphic amputation scene must be part of the unrated stuff on this DVD release. But the callow young American who performs the gory dismemberment is a pre-med student, which means that the gristle and flapping skin, not to mention the cast-iron frying pan cauterization, are actually plot-driven, so there's no reason to feel any nagging gratuitous-violence guilt. The film adaptation actually improves on Scott B. Smith's sprawling beach-read novel by distilling the action and eliminating some of the endless whining as clueless young Americans vacationing in Mexico find themselves on top of an ancient Mayan temple pyramid in the jungle, beset by a killer vine on one side and angry natives who will stop at nothing to contain the botanical menace. It's Saw meets Survivor as our protagonists wait for a rescue that will never come and haul themselves in and out of a spooky well on a rotten rope. Meanwhile, the Triffid-like monster ground cover reveals an ability to mimic human sounds. Under the strain, the presumptive victims start to turn on each other. Best of all: no one gets out of here alive, and you don't care 'cause they're all really obnoxious. That way you can appreciative the vine-crawling-under-the-skin effect and plenty of crazed-self-mutilation-in-blood-soaked-underwear sequences. Bonus points for an unexpected early head-exploding death. The extras include one of those making-of docs in which the producers, directors and actors all take the film more seriously than is healthy. Fun fact: The Ruins was filmed in Australia, and the actors were freezing most of the time. Another featurette offers some fascinating glimpses of how the pyramid set was constructed.


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