Haunted attractions are big business. Forget about haunted hayrides. Now you can watch a screening of Jaws while floating on a lake. Or you can take a tour the campsite where Sean S Cunningham filmed the original Friday the 13th. Too tame. Try spending the night at a horror-themed campsite. Never one to miss a trend, the horror genre has already cashed in on the ‘haunted attraction gone wrong’. The Houses October Built, Hell House LLC, Escape Room, Hell Fest – they’ve all centred their horror around haunted attractions. Though it had a small release two years ago, Preston DeFrancis’ neo-slasher , Ruin Me, is now available on several VOD platforms.
After his friend backs out, Nathan drags his non-horror fan girlfriend, Alex, for a weekend overnight horror camp called Slasher Sleepout. A mix of escape rooms and interactive haunts, the couple join several strangers for 36 hours of clues, puzzles, and scares. But someone is taking the game a little too seriously. As the campers start to disappear, Alex fears that this scare attraction may be a little too real.
Ambitious Story-Telling, But Lacks Focus
While Ruin Me’s premise positions it as another meta- or neo-slasher, writers DeFrancis and Trysta A Bissett are a little more ambitious. And let’s face it, there’s plenty of neo-slashers boasting meta-humour. Even if you don’t count Scream or Cabin in the Woods, there’s still You Might Be The Killer, The Final Girls, Detention, and Tucker and Dale vs Evil, to name a few. So just when you think Ruin Me is travelling down a familiar road, it throws a curveball at the midway point. Not content to subvert expectations once, DeFrancis and Bissett deliver another April Fool’s Day-inspired twist. And Ruin Me then twists one last time it its climax. Courtesy of its winding story, Ruin Me avoids feeling derivative or tired.
… the frequent tonal shifts prevent DeFrancis’ debut feature from doing any one thing particularly well.
Yet in spite of its clever twists and turns, Ruin Me ultimately feels very unfocused. In terms of tone, the movie is a bit all over the map. In addition, the frequent tonal shifts prevent DeFrancis’ debut feature from doing any one thing particularly well. What starts as a Friday the 13th camping horror with some meta-references shifts gears to a Saw-inspired deadly game. By its conclusion, Ruin Me feels like survival horror without any of the hints of humour teased in the beginning.
Ruin Me Suffers In Its Execution
Though the tonal shifts are problematic, Ruin Me’s major problems lies in its execution. Whether the movie intended to be a homage or tongue-in-cheek send-up of camping horror, it’s never funny, scary, or gory enough. Aside from a couple of well-timed scares, Ruin Me comes up short on the jolts. And horror fans won’t find old-fashioned, low-budget slasher gore. When things shift gear, channeling Saw films, the trap is too tame for ‘gorno’ fans and undermined by unnecessary melodrama. At its climax, DeFrancis sets up what could be a memorable finale. Whether the scene is undone by budget limitations or just uninspired filming, things fall flat.
Indie Cast Neither Detracts Nor Mesmerizes
For a low-budget indie horror effort, Ruin Me’s cast largely satisfies modest expectations. Actress Marcienne Dwyer, playing Alex, offers the right balance of sympathy and depth to make her interesting. Arguably, Ruin Me’s screenplay gives her more with which to work than what you’d typically find in this sort of movie. While I wouldn’t label it a layered performance, Dwyer balances a likability with angst and mystery. No one else in the cast really stands out. Some of the performances lean on the stiff side, but there’s nothing here that ‘ruins’ the movie. Boyfriend Nathan, played by Matt Dellapina, gets saddled with some late melodramatic dialogue. But it’s nothing compared to the strained dialogue Alex’s ex-boyfriend, Jared, played by Sam Ashdown, has to deliver in his abbreviated appearance.
Ruin Me Offers Decent Horror Diversion
Regardless of its flaws, Ruin Me still serves as a decent indie horror movie. Certainly, DeFrancis shows some promise with his debut feature movie. Nothing about the movie, however, is particularly memorable.One can’t help but feel a lot of potential with the concept was left untapped. Somewhere out there is the perfect horror-themed camp-out movie. But we’ll have to wait a little longer.