★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
What’s the worst thing somebody just coming out of rehab should do to relax and find peace in the world? Go to a slasher camp re-enactment! This film telegraphs its moves like a brass band marching through the forest.
Directed by Preston DeFrancis
Ruin Me actually has a pretty good concept. A couple looking to relax decide to go to Slasher Sleepout, a horror fantasy re-enactment camp in, of course, a wooded lakeside campground. The trouble is that Alex (Marcienne Dwyer) is a recovering heroin addict, and her therapist boyfriend, Nathan (Matt Delapina) has asked her to go along with him, since his buddy who was supposed to go with him bailed on the trip.
First off, bringing somebody who is not a diehard horror slasher fan to a camp like this is probably not a good idea. Subjecting a someone recovering from an opioid addiction to this event is highly suspect. But, Alex is game to give it a go. They meet a group of central casting oddballs: the angry Goth guy, Pitch (John Odom), his polyamorous girlfriend, Marina (Eva Hamilton), the enthusiastic horror fan Larry (Chris Hill), and the quiet loner, Tim (Cameron Gordon). They meet in a remote gas station parking lot, and after meeting with the surly camp director, they get “kidnapped” and whisked away in a white stepvan.
The camp initially plays out like an outdoor escape room, with some puzzles that they have to conquer before they get to the camp, and are jumped by the camp actors who chase them to the campsite. And this is where the story unfolds similarly to a conventional slasher movie, and the question that the characters are forced to reckon with is “Are these things real?” Oh no! The game just got real! Or did it? Ah, that old gambit.
One by one the characters start getting picked off. Plenty of old tropes show up. The crazy old coot warning the kids. The late night visit from potential slashers at the camp site. Someone is missing come day break. All things within the realm of what SHOULD be happening at a Slasher Sleepaway. Honestly, if I was paying for this experience, I wouldn’t want to be taken out in the opening sequence. I’d want my money back!
But, the meat of the story is about how Alex is processing it. And it certainly seems to be a camp designed for one person: her. And, that isn’t too far from the truth. Apart from the predictability of the story, the special circumstances surrounding her reaction to the camp events pushes the boundaries of logic. I found myself thinking, “Oh no they’re not going to pull this cliche out, are they?”, and then they did.
I think Dwyer is fine in the role of Alex. I think she handles all of her character responsibilities well, and she’s a likable . The rest of the cast comes off too strong and without enough subtlety, but when was the last time a slasher movie ever did? I will admit to not being a big slasher movie fan in general, so a movie that relies upon slasher references had better nail it with humor or subltlety. (e.g.: Cabin in the Woods or Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, or the great short film The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds.)
This was DeFrancis’ first feature film, having done a number of short films prior to this. I think he had a good kernel of an idea, but it was like he stretched out a short film idea and didn’t exactly know how to assemble the pieces so that you would have to break credibility to make it work. One scene that I really did like, and was pivotal to the ending was the scene involving the Lake, and a man from Alex’s past. Unfortunately, in hindsight, that scene didn’t make much sense either.
For those of you who adore slasher films, you might really enjoy this. Slasher movies never were supposed to make much sense, so perhaps this one stretching the boundaries of the plausible is a moot point.
Ruin Me was not rated, but probably merits an R, for language, sexual suggestiveness, and a little bit of gore. It gets to about a 8 out of 25 on the Scariest Things Bridge Too Far Horror Index. It’s not nearly as gory as the source material, though that is one of the things in thinking back on it, actually does hold water. Ruin Me is available streaming on Shudder.