Ruin Me


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Ruin Me
"Moments of reflection are balanced by playful scenes structured around the clichés of horror filmmaking."

How much do you love horror films? Enough to want to be in one? Enough to want to try out a real life experience based on one?

Alex (Marcienne Dwyer) is reluctant to go to Slasher Sleepout, but then, she'd probably hesitate to watch a horror film - it's just not her thing. She does it anyway as a favour to boyfriend Nathan (Matt Dellapina). Together with four strangers, they're hooded and driven to a secret destination, an apparently remote area of woodland, where labeled backpacks await them, each containing a special item. Alex is seriously discomfited when one of these items turns out to be a gun, but the others reassure her that it is just a game. Goths Marina (Eva Hamilton) and Pitch (John Odom) tell her they've been on several before.

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Together, the group is supposed to look for clues, each of which will direct them to the next clue, exposing them to scares long the way. They also get time to bond around a campfire, albeit not as intimately as Marina would like. Alex is particularly wary of her at first, but when they're alone she offers real sympathy, even when Alex talks about her past as a drug addict and how Nathan has helped with her recovery. These moments of reflection are balanced by playful scenes structured around the clichés of horror filmmaking. Ruin Me naturally invites audience participation and this, in its way, provides reassurance to anyone who feels wary the way Alex does.

By the time the first injury occurs, Alex is already aware that somebody in the group may be a plant, there to make the situation more intense for the others. Even deaths could be faked, right? But about halfway through the film, she finds herself in the company of someone she had never expected to see there, in a horrible situation with no trace of fakery about it. The tone changes. Nothing here is what it appeared to be, and Alex will have to toughen up fast if she wants to survive.

Director and co-writer Preston DeFrancis carries his film through more than one shift of this sort, and though they may not all surprise you, they nevertheless add welcome depth, making this much more than the one-note film it threatened to be. There are numerous gimmicks but they're appropriate for the plot, so horror fans get to have their cake and eat it. Importantly, there is substance underlying this, with observations about addiction, misogyny and the way people treat junkies that introduce a different level of horror.

There are some technical shortcomings with this film. Its low budget shows, as does the inexperience of some of the actors. Dwyer makes a strong lead, however, and holds viewer attention throughout. It's DeFrancis' feature debut and will certainly succeed in getting him noticed.

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2017
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Welcome to Slasher Sleepout: The Ultimate Horror Movie Experience combining camping, haunted house, and an escape room into one extreme 36-hour event. Six strangers are hooded, dropped in the middle of the woods, and must survive a simulated horror movie. But then people start dying for real.

Director: Preston DeFrancis

Writer: Trysta A Bissett, Preston DeFrancis

Starring: Marcienne Dwyer, Matt Dellapina, Eva Hamilton, John Odom, Chris Hill

Year: 2017

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: US

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