This is why I love my job: you watch a horror flick just because the production company asked if you could write a review, and end up being utterly and genuinely surprised by it.
That’s what happened with Ruin Me, a horror movie that screened at a few festivals at the end of 2017 (gaining quite a solid reputation) and went straight-to-Shudder in the middle of July 2018.
Ruin Me is, at its core, a homage to horror movies and their fans, as the premise will make it clear to you. “Slasher Sleepout” is described as the Ultimate Horror Movie Experience: part camping trip, part haunted house, and part escape room, all rolled into one extreme 36-hour event. Six strangers are hooded, dropped in the middle of the woods, and must navigate increasingly strange and dangerous mysteries. Among them Alexandra (Marcienne Dwyer) and her boyfriend Nathan (Matt Dellapina) who, pretty early on into the ‘adventure’, have the feeling something is really off.
From here on, Ruin Me becomes a puzzle/mystery that will have you keep guessing and trying to figure out what’s really going on. This time more than in other instances, I don’t want to delve into the plot too much – let alone spoiler-talk – as I believe this film would work better if you don’t know anything about it going in.
I should start, however, by saying that the first 10 minutes are definitely the weakest part of this film: the actors – most of which are first-timers – give rather wooden and amateur performances at the beginning of Ruin Me. Yet, you really have to suspend your disbelief as some of the organisers mistreat the six participants from the get-go. Heck, if somebody starts pushing me and being aggressive, I’d bail out straight away! It’s just common sense, really. Also, there are three unnecessary and fake jump-scares within the first 10 minutes of the movie, which really made me think this would have been another cheap and conventional horror flick.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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On the contrary, once the six contenders get to the woods, Ruin Me becomes extremely interesting and the aforementioned flaws disappear for good.
One thing I really appreciate about this film is that the protagonists represent six different types of horror enthusiasts: the hard-core one, the one who seeks entertainment, the fan of mainstream flicks, the all-around fanatic of the genre, the badass who thinks he would survive in any slasher and the newbie. This characterisation of the protagonists is subtle and emerges through dialogues and situations – without any lazy exposition – and it also shows that Preston DeFrancis (who I believe to be a first time filmmaker!) is a real horror buff, who’s got knowledge about the genre and respects horror lovers.
Yet, as I said before, the best part of Ruin Me lies in the mystery aspect. This movie will most likely keep surprising you throughout: you might think you know what is it going for, but you’d be wrong.
In fact, the script (written by Trysta Bisset and Preston DeFrancis) represents the most solid part of the film, with the ability to jump from one good conflict to another with some very inventive puzzles thrown in the mix. In terms of inventiveness, the movie presents a few traps along the way for our characters that are quite gory (not too much, though) and very well thought.
Surprisingly, Ruin Me doesn’t look cheap at all. I don’t have any information about the budget it was made on, but locations, cinematography and camera-work are everything but amateur. Sure, the movie has a very indie feel to it, but that only adds to the whole deal.
Besides the first 10 minutes, my only big complaint about Ruin Me is that, after the surprising and twisty ending, a couple of scenes that happened in the movie don’t make sense anymore. One in particular, set under the water, is simply inexplicable in light of the final sequences in the movie. In other words, one or two scenes spread throughout this film feel like they’ve been included for shock value but, thinking in retrospect, they don’t make sense at all. Once again, this didn’t initially bother me (and I’m sure most people won’t pay attention to it) because the movie as a whole is good and draws you in, but upon pondering about it… I felt a bit cheated on.
Ruin Me 7.5/10
An IMDb user said it best: “it’s certainly not a 10 out of 10 but it was enjoyable and far better than most Hollywood horror flicks in recent years”. Therefore, watch Ruin Me on Shudder if you can or look out for its DVD release (since it won’t get a theatrical release other than in… Taiwan?), don’t let it flow under your radars!