Each year, thousands of horror fans flock to haunted attractions, seeking out a good time with friends and a few laughs and scares. But what happens if one of these experiences goes horribly, fatally wrong? That’s exactly what happens in Preston DeFrancis’ feature debut Ruin Me.
The film stars Marcienne Dwyer as Alex, a non-horror fan dragged by her boyfriend to a 36-hour camping haunt called Slasher Sleepout. Throughout the camping trip, Alex, her boyfriend Nathan, and a small group of strangers will solve riddles and dodge creeps in masks as Slasher Sleepout employees try to scare them all into quitting before the end of the 36 hours. It’s all fun and games until, of course, they start to be picked off one by one.
However, the questions don’t end at “Who done it?” Alex isn’t exactly the angel everyone assumes she is. She’s been having flashbacks to her recent heroin overdose and keeping secrets from her boyfriend, Nathan. Now that all the Sleepout participants are being brutally murdered, Alex must determine whether these events are real, a part of the game, or if her mind has finally snapped and is playing tricks on her.
It’s evident early on that Ruin Me doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, tonally. At times it feels like it wants to be The Final Girls but with less humor, sometimes Friday the 13th with less blood, other times The Game with less finesse. There are moments when melodrama sneaks in and, in fact, gets so hammy that it’s eye-roll inducing. Specifically, there is a scene on a beach wherein Alex and an old flame not only exchange a few very cliched lines, but they seem to be acting for an after-school special. Soon after, the film jumps into survival horror territory of having characters escape a death trap, and then back into the slasher realm once again.
As far as acting goes, Marcienne Dwyer plays Alex convincingly enough, allowing us all to wonder what she may be hiding while simultaneously inviting us to care about her and her survival. However, none of the actors really stand out much at all. All are simply fine, a few a little less so, and thus make decent, expendable victims for a slasher film. It’s when the film makes tonal shifts into being dramatic that weaknesses become obvious, most notably within Nathan (Matt Dellapina) and Alex’s ex-boyfriend, Jared (Sam Ashdown).
Despite these flaws, this film is not outright bad. On the contrary, Ruin Me is, for the most part, very entertaining and even fun. There are quite a few jokes and allusions for horror fans to appreciate. Even as far as the mystery of the film goes, learning about Alex’s shady past as well as the motivations for the Slasher Sleepout killings is interesting throughout the entire film.
The problem isn’t that Ruin Me is bad, it’s that it’s not altogether memorable. Because it borrows from so many films and genres at once, Ruin Me gets lost in the sea of meta-horror and slasher movies, and then further buried under films which executed this idea much more successfully (think Scream, The Final Girls, even Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon). Nothing really sets Ruin Me apart- it’s serviceable but mediocre.
In all, there are much worse films you could be spending 90 minutes of your time watching. Through the duration, viewers will be engaged, but in a year may be asking themselves whether they watched Ruin Me or not.
Ruin Me played at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival.