Thursday, August 9, 2018

In short: Ruin Me (2017)

Warning: some spoilers included!

Despite being not into this sort of thing at all, Alex (Marcienne Dwyer) accompanies her boyfriend Nathan (Matt Dellapina) on something called Slasher Sleepout, an outdoors event in the spirit of extreme haunted houses and escape rooms, or those things where you pay people for getting stalked in your daily life. Personally, I’d avoid something like this like the plague, be my girlfriend perfection personified. But then, Alex’s and Nathan’s relationship seems rather special, seeing as they started when she was in a rehab clinic and he her therapist there, with more than just a hint of highly controlling behaviour coming from him.

I’m sure nothing of this is going to be important for the plot at all. Once the fun and games begin, the couple and the other victims/participants find themselves confronted with various shocks and freak-outs that will soon leave them in doubt if the horrors they are experiencing are quite as fake as they should be. Their numbers will dwindle in any case, and Alex just might have to confront some uncomfortable truths.

As regular visitors to this house of crap will have noticed, I’m not terribly fond of twisty thrillers and their ways, often finding their tendency to add twist upon twist to the state of absurdity detrimental to my ability to enjoy them. It’s gotten to the point where I have started to ask myself if it is me and not these films that is the problem. So Preston DeFrancis’s Ruin Me came both as a pleasant surprise in so far as I enjoyed this unassuming little film quite a bit, and as a suggestion that it’s not me, for I like most of the twists here just fine, and even found myself enjoying them.

There’s nothing about the film that’s exactly new: take physical isolation of characters, act flaws, some violence, a handful of doubts concerning the protagonist’s sanity, and one and a half Saw-style traps, and the script’s ready to go. However, DeFrancis (who also co-wrote the script with Trysta A. Bissett) executes these standards rather well, staging most of the well-worn tropes in play here with care and an excellent sense for timing. This does, obviously, stand the film in particularly good stead when it comes to the twists, for when you do something implausible or slightly contrived at the right time and with the right speed, it suddenly feels plausible enough to be fun. DeFrancis is sure-handed enough that I found myself at times not quite sure where exactly he was going with his plot, while the twists were still lacking the randomness that would make them annoying.

Similar goes for the characters: even though no single performance here is exactly memorable, and there’s certainly a reliance on the familiar in the characterisation, the performances are always good and on point, and the characters themselves have the second dimension they need to keep me interested.

All this may not sound like a huge recommendation, but Ruin Me ends up being exactly the twisty little thriller in the woods with a nasty ending it set out to be, and that’s more than enough to keep me happy.

No comments: