Friday, April 4 marked the released on the highly anticipated horror movie from Paramount, entitled “The Ruins.” The movie involves a group of friends vacationing in Mexico and then deciding to participate in an archeological dig. This unearths evil that is lurking within the ruins of the area, setting up the plot for this latest horror/thriller from Paramount. Actors Shawn Ashmore (“X-Men”), Laura Ramsey (“She’s the Man”) and Jena Malone (“Donnie Darko”) recently participated in a college conference call to share their experiences working on the film with college journalists nationwide.
Q: [.] How scary was the set as far as like at night whenever you weren’t actually filming? Was it, did it have spooky characteristics to it or anything like that?
Ashmore: I think, you know, the interesting thing about the movie is that although it’s a horror movie and a thriller and has all those elements, a lot of the film takes place in broad daylight, which is kind of an interesting idea and concept for a horror film. And it’s amazing because you know, you can’t hide from anything – all of these things that are happening are you know, and under the blaring sun, which almost makes it creepier because you can’t turn away, you can’t hide, there’s nothing you know, you see it all.
Ramsey: Yea I think more the circumstances we were under, you know, like imagining the circumstance that we were faced with was the scary part, the set really wasn’t that scary to me, it was you know, having to cry and scream that scared me. Hello?
Q: There’s been a lot of movies out recently like scary movies like “The Ring” and “The Grudge,” what do you think makes “The Ruins” different than all those types of movies that have been out recently?
Ramsey: Yea I’ll take this one. I think personally the reason why it’s more scary than the other movies is because this has sort of like a realistic factor to it, like you can actually picture yourself being in stranded somewhere and having to deal with, you know, a life or death situation and having to have survival, it’s basically about, you know, survival and how to survive when you’re faced with a life or death situation, so I mean I just think it’s scarier because you can as a person you can compare it to like this ghost jumping out or this person trying to like murder you, it’s more on an element of survival and human instincts.
Ashmore: And I really think like the scariest part and the most horrific things that happen in this film our characters do to each other, so it’s not as if there’s someone stalking us or there’s like some guy that’s jumping out of a closet with a knife, it’s like the thing that’s really scary and really terrifying is watching these characters sort of break down and get to the point where they will you know, whether it’s a couple or friends or whatever, where they get to a point where they will harm each other for survival. [.]
Woman: Have any of you read the book and if so do you think the movie stays true to it?
Ashmore: I have read the book. I think the movie stays very true to the movie. Scott Smith, the author of the book wrote the screenplay as well and I mean there are certainly changes, characters, different things that happen in the book happens to different characters in the screenplay like in the script. But I think at the end of the day it has the exact same tone pretty much all the events, all the major events and character points and stuff that happened in the book are translated really well into the film. [.]
Q: What was the first thing that drew you to the script of “The Ruins?”
Ashmore: When I first, I got the script and then you know, I was told that it was a DreamWorks film and I was kind of interested but what I did first is my agents sent me along Carter Smith, our director’s short film called Bugcrush. So I watched that first and that’s what really made me interested in even really taking a real self-look at the script. I loved the short film, it was creepy, it was not too stylized by it had like a really, a real sense of direct throughout the whole short so I read the script having that in mind, like seeing like his eye and his tone and stuff like that, so that’s what really drew me in and then I also knew, I’d seen “A Simple Plan” which was Scott Smith’s last film and that’s you know, and I really love that film so I just, you know, I looked at the script knowing that that was sort of the pedigree is coming from and Carter’s direction, so that’s when I really got into it.
Ramsey: I agree, I really looked at Bugcrush and that made me want to look into it further but also I think the role of Stacy for me was really interesting because it’s such a challenge to go from this young happy-go-lucky girl and energized and into this whole mess of a person and being completely obsessed with something that’s inside of her and lashing out at her best friends and I just found it so interesting and a challenge to be able to, you know, kind of go there, that’s what interests me is basically the role itself was a good challenge and I wanted to be able to see if I could do it.
Q: [.] Were you ever haunted by anything that you saw or had to do in the film? Did you ever have nightmares or kind of carry it with you outside of shooting?
Ashmore: I think the thing that affected me the most was just some of the violence and some of the gore that’s in this film. It’s just, I mean I don’t want to give too much away but it’s really about the idea of having a group of friends that you just, you think that you’re going on this, you know, amazing adventure and then turns out to be just an absolute nightmare where you know, you have to make life and death situations.
Q: And I noticed in the trailer it looks like you guys were doing some cave diving. I was wondering if you did any kind of training for that, like did you do your own stunts or did you leave that mostly to the stunt people?
Ramsey: I actually did my, we had a little training for when we would be harnessed and going down into the actual dig and so we had training for that and then there was a moment where I kind of jump and fall and I have to be proud and I did that myself. It’s me on there and I actually fall and like do the pretend fall and everything and it’s interesting because they have all these stunt people who are all around you and protect you but they teach you a way to like go, when you’re going down on the wire and make it all look real but really you’re harnessed in.
Q: Most people will recognize you from the “X-Men” films as Iceman, but I still remember you in that Disney show In a Heartbeat. But what interested you about the script and working with Carter Smith?
Ashmore: Well the first thing is I saw Carter’s short film Bugcrush so that was originally what interested me, I just though it was a really unique tone and really dark and something different, I hadn’t seen anything like it before. And it sort of after I was finished watching Bugcrush it really stuck with me so that’s why I was like this is something that’s you know, going to be pretty amazing. If this guy can put his you know, his eye and his taste to a movie like The Ruins then it could be something really, really special and I was also a fan of A Simple Plan which is Scott Smith’s first book and film so that’s really what brought me to be interested in it. [.]
Q: [.] What do you think makes a good horror film and how is this movie like playing into the themes of recent horror films where it’s been, you know, you see a lot of gore, a lot of like stuff, is there like a lot of suspense to this movie and what makes this different I guess, like as those other horror films?
Ashmore: I think, I mean I think what m
akes it different and what makes, what makes a good horror film for me is basically being invested in the people that are in the situation, so first and foremost you have to care, you know what I mean. It’s like you see a lot of horror films where it’s just, you know, teenager one is going to be killed off and you know it and it plays into the conventions of like, you know, someone gets naked and then they have sex and then someone gets killed and it’s like that kind of thing. Whereas a film like this you really sort of live with these characters and get to know them before anything awful even happens, you know what I mean. It’s really just about like getting to know these characters on vacation, these two couples basically and a couple strangers they meet at a Mexican resort and you sort of live with them and you get to know them as couples and as individuals before anything awful even happens, before this crazy adventure even begins.
Q: Okay, obviously this film is frightening. When I watched the preview I just could not see a way out of the situation and some way to survive, which freaks me out. Is there any specific truly frightening scenes that you filmed that you can share with us?
Ashmore: Well, some of the scary stuff for me, and it wasn’t even stuff that I was in, there’s this idea of the girls need to go into this dig site, which is basically an ancient Mayan tomb basically, and some of the stuff when they go down there is absolutely terrifying to me personally because I was saying before, I’m kind of claustrophobic, so just being in this like musty, dank, you know, dark kind of place would scare the crap out of me.
So when I’m watching that obviously my character never goes down so, I never got to sort of imagine myself in that situation, but watching that stuff just scares the crap out of me. I mean that’s really what would send me over the edge. So that was scary for me to watch.
Q: After completing The Ruins do you feel that the movie is genre bending and do you think that you made the right decision in making the films?
Malone: Definitely. I’m really proud of the work and I feel like when I watch the film it’s kind of hard for me to describe it to an audience, you know it’s suspense, it’s thriller, there is intense moments of gore that sort of turns into some sort of horror, but it’s not any of that, it’s also psychological and it’s also twisted and it’s also very simple.
So I think that Carter did a really beautiful job of blending and showing something new to an otherwise I think a little you know, kind of a stale genre of horror, I mean and sort of trying to add a lot of different elements to make it real and tangible and unique, you know.
Q: Yes. Now that you’re much older from “Stepmom” and “Donnie Darko” do you think that this is a much more mature role?
Malone: Well I mean maturity is sort of I feel like it comes and goes, you know, when you know, I’m 23-years-old so I can’t help but want to play things that I’m you know, age appropriate for, but I think that a lot of people you know when they get older like oh, I’ll never play a teenager again, but sometimes I feel like some roles are so ageless. Like there was a film called the Weight of Water and Sarah Polley’s role in that, I mean she could have been 16-years-old, she could have been 32, it wasn’t important how old she was, what was important was who she was.
Q: Can you tell me what is your process when you develop your characters?
Malone: Sometimes I find it through a piece of clothes, sometimes I find it from watching young girls on the street, sometimes I do a lot of Internet research. You know I think with what tools we have now with how vast the Internet is I mean sometimes I read that I’m going to be playing a Goth character and I’ll research the entire world of what it is to be you know, a punk Goth or a ballerina Goth and you know, there’s Web blogs of girls talking about their life and sort of spilling their blood to you and I feel like there’s so many different ways to approach it. [.]
Q: You are obviously incredibly talented for the background you have with the movies you’ve done and I was wondering are there certain things about your character that attracted you to the screenplay or were there other things that made you just want to pick up this movie?
Malone: There was a lot of elements that drew me to The Ruins, first and foremost it was Carter Smith the director, I had seen his short film “Bugcrush” and it was one of the creepiest and most tangible horror/suspense/just you know really messed up film that I’d seen in a long time that sort of reminded me of David Lynch and Cronenberg. So I and I really love Cronenberg’s horror films, you know, it’s all about human nature and there’s really not necessarily a bad guy, it’s just sort of it’s this sort of you know, battle that you fight within as a human. [.]
Q: When we were talking with Laura and Shawn earlier, Shawn said that the movie is very subtle and psychological but he also said that it’s really violent and I was wondering despite the fact that the set is a totally controlled environment, were there any moments where you went out of being in like actor scared mode and went into genuinely scared mode, like were there any times where you actually like feared for your life or were genuinely scared?
Malone: I definitely feel like the line was probably the most blurry in my entire life acting this film, you know the difference between myself as an actor and what I present and all of the technicalities and then the emotional life of a character that you build, I mean I feel like it was a very line because you know, we were dealing with deprivation all the cast when on this sort of diet that was, you know, we weren’t eating a lot and we were trying to sort of deprive ourselves of one singular thing to sort of understand the deprivation that the characters were going through. But, to be perfectly honest I think I had a break down almost on every level, you know, spiritually, emotionally, creatively. It was a lot of physical work and it was completely demanding.
The Ruins, written by Scott B. Smith and directed by Carter Smith, is in theaters now.
Chris Pierdomenico is a fourth-year student at West Chester University majoring in Secondary English Education with minors in psychology and film criticism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org