Thursday, October 18th
Most of 2018 has been objectively bad, but if I were to sit back and think of a silver lining, it has to be the streaming service "Shudder" upping its original content game. Netflix has been adding a large variety to their streaming content, but the majority of the movies they have been putting out seem like they would have gone on the shelf if Netflix didn't purchase them, mostly not good enough to be in theaters. There have been some exceptions with "Extinction," "Mudbound," and "The Ritual," but the majority haven't been very good. It's the opposite with Shudder's content this past year. Along with Coralie Fargeat's "Revenge," they also put out a surprisingly great film this year called "Ruin Me."
Escape rooms, extreme haunted houses, and slasher campouts are a popular pastime for many horror enthusiasts, and activities like those fuel the plot line for "Ruin Me." Six strangers embark on what is supposed to be a "safe" but scary experience. There's an amusing couple who have done this slasher sleepover multiple times, and spend much of their couple time battling fake zombies in escape rooms. We have a bearded guy who seems like a survivalist type, a nerdy/funny guy representing the geeks, and a couple with a strange power dynamic who serve as our leads. It's apparent from the start that Nathan is a bit controlling, and his girlfriend Alex is suffering from some sort of trauma that keeps her a little disassociated from much of what is going on around her. She's not a horror fan, more of a "Dirty Dancing" fan that has been dragged along to something that doesn't really interest her.
As the slasher experience continues on, the apparent "safety" evaporates, and we as an audience are left to wonder what is real and what isn't. Even when the audience is led to believe something has become safe, there are more twists that the film takes. The game of the Slasher Sleepover thing they're on is to "Ruin" the participants, taking their minds further than they were originally willing to go, basically breaking them. The filmmakers behind "Ruin Me" are trying to do the same with the audience, lulling them into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under them multiple times.
"Blood Fest," and "Hell Fest" were both recent releases that extend the horror cycle "Ruin Me" may have started. With the popularity of horror conventions, escape rooms, and other "extreme" horror experiences, it was inevitable that a few movies would be set at events where the violence becomes real. I'm hoping that the lackluster receptions of the two "Fest" films don't detract others from trying to further what "Ruin Me" was doing.
This was a pretty clever film that was an entertaining time throughout. There wasn't much of a budget to work with, and I think there might be one actor in it that I recognized, but "Ruin Me" is a film that I've found to be re-watchable, which makes it a great one to add to the Halloween Season rotation. I'd give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars, grading on a slight curve since some of the acting was slightly rough in the beginning. As the film picked up speed, it smoothed out, and end up "Ruining Me" for a couple hours after the first viewing.
"Masters of Horror: Sounds Like"
If any "Masters of Horror" had its genesis as a spec script for "The X-Files" "Sounds Like" would be the one. The director of this chapter, Brad Anderson, did around a season's worth of episodes of "Fringe," so the similarities make sense. Fringe was, after all, just another prime-time attempt to recapture the magic of Fox and Mulder. "X Files" was one of my favorite shows growing up, appointment viewing in an age before DVRs. People knew not to call or try to contact me at all during it's Sunday Night time slot. This brought me back to those times in a nicely nostalgic way.
Chris Bauer (True Blood) gives a standout performance as Larry Pearce, a supervisor in a telemarketer office who has some unique abilities. Those who work the phones in his department have theories about him, how he's able to know everything that is going on at all times. They also gossip about a tragedy that he just went through, and took no time off for. We learn in flashbacks that the stress of disaster corresponds with the amplification of a power he'd been managing. His hearing is so acute that he can hear the metastasizing of his young son's cancer before it's diagnosed. At his son's gravestone, he begins to lose control of how he hears things, a problem that progresses throughout the episode until it becomes complete madness. Jess was in the room studying from this one and found the ending to be a satisfying shock as well.
The episode hinges on the strength of Bauer's performance, and he really elevated the material, making this a satisfying episode. It's all about the horror of a man losing control of his senses, and being driven to a satisfactory level of insanity by the end of the story. Paranoia horror at its best. It stuck the ending and got under my skin deeper and deeper as it went along. This is another nice 3.5 star out of 5 addition to the series.