Are you ready to be ruined? It is of course the standard protocol when you drift in to slasher movie territory and is what’s offered up in Preston DeFrancis’s cut-throat fright flick, Ruin Me.
The instantly appealing premise sees a diverse group of misfit characters embark on the ‘Slasher Sleepout’- an interactive horror movie experience that begins at a rundown garage and plays out in a formulaic fashion. All the expected slasher tropes are in place but as the paranoia sets in, Ruin Me takes both its characters and audience on an unanticipated thrill ride. Is the Slasher Sleepout merely an overproduced scare attraction or will the group stumble onto something much more sinister?!
Constructing a slasher film is incredibly difficult these days. In a genre that has been a horror mainstay since at least the 1960’s and has evolved throughout the decades, it’s no easy feat to create something new and fresh that will impact the audience. DeFrancis and co-writer Trysta A. Bissett push the envelope to set Ruin Me apart from its modern counterparts. They ensure that they don’t just have a ‘paint by the numbers’, predictable slasher on their hands and actively subvert conventions to a fun effect which allows the audience to become engaged with the material presented.
The genre has witnessed a resurgence in subversive slasher films over the last few years. Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010), The Cabin in the Woods (2012) and The Final Girls (2015) are examples of movies that are post-modern, self-aware and trope-defying. There’s the incorporation of the blurred lines between horror and comedy which has always delighted audiences.
DeFrancis and Bissett obtain an equal balance between the two; they place the characters in a familiar environment but because they are aware the variables are being manipulated with it then brings in a whole other dimension to the proceedings. In certain ways Ruin Me returns to the tone of 90’s slasher movies, the quintessential example being Scream (1996). The piano score evokes a melancholic tone, reminiscent of the Marco Beltrami composed ‘Sidney’s Lament’. The score itself adds depth to the notion that this isn’t a typical throwaway comedy horror.
Unlike the previously mentioned flicks that evade playing it straight in favour of excessive laughs and references, Ruin Me doesn’t veer into overblown comedy, it instead retains a subtle style of self-awareness. It doesn’t need to spell anything out in order to be understood.
One of the cleverest aspects of dialogue comes in the shape of a commentary on horror films vs. romantic comedies. It holds the conviction that while horror is disturbing and twisted the audience have a safety barrier in place with the knowledge that it’s not real. Romantic comedy on the other hand builds false expectations about human relationships and is therefore realistically dangerous.
The scare attraction concept is cleverly crafted as the film unapologetically places the characters into the slasher movie scenario. These thrill-seeking attractions are a popular kind of immersive experience that appeal to the more macabre mindset. There’s that essence of knowing deep down that the situation is not real however the illusion created acts on a visceral level meaning that part of the psyche will respond to the presented scenarios as if they are truly happening.
Ruin Me utilises this so well and its where it provides its audience with thrills, chills and suspense as it’s not clear cut on where the movie will lead. The atmosphere is the key element in the film not the idea of an unstoppable killer emerging from the trees to claim their victims.
Ruin Me features archetypal characters which is part and parcel when it comes to a film of this kind but DeFrancis supplies them with more depth, especially in the construction of his ‘final girl’ Alex (Marcienne Dwyer). On the surface, she appears to embody all the expected traits e.g. virginial, prudish, straight laced and on her guard but DeFrancis brings in some originality with her character which is executed well in Dwyer’s performance.
Dwyer portrays Alex as a three-dimensional person with an intriguing backstory that elevates the fact she is not as clean-cut as she first appears. She’s not up to speed on horror movie lore either and with that aspect removed it’s more interesting to witness how her fight for survival will unfold.
Ruin Me is greatly paced and smart in what it does. Featuring rich characterisation, unexpected revelations, breath-taking cinematography, slick editing, implied gore, mind trickery and the challenging of slasher conventions. When you think it’s all over the twists and turns come thick and fast. It takes something special in order to connect with a slasher film in today’s day and age but Ruin Me effectively pulls it out of the bag.