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Scott Sigler – Checking Out The Ruins, Shutter and Asylum on DVD

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Novelist Scott Sigler’s horror column appears every Thursday.

One of the perks of writing this blog is I get pre-release DVDs under the guise that I am a legitimate journalist. Now I know what you’re thinking, the terms “Scott Sigler” and “legitimate” don’t belong together, and you’re right, but what the movie companies don’t know won’t hurt them… at least until they read these reviews. This week, I bring you a wrap-up of three recent horror DVD releases: The killer plant flick, The Ruins: Unrated; the latest Asian horror remake Shutter; and a little humdinger called Asylum.

The Ruins: Unrated
It’s a plant: Burn it. Sound simple? Well yes, it is, and yet never once does it occur to our intrepid Group of Good Looking Young People (that’s right, the GGLYP) as they find themselves trapped atop a Mayan temple in dire need of some Weed-B-Gone. Despite the fact that the characters actually have a fire going on top of this Mayan temple, they don’t try to burn this killer plant. Not even once. That kind of shoots the movie right in the keester. But if you can roll with such contrivances, I’d still call this DVD a must-rent. There is horror, and there is gore — gore way off the charts. The amputation scene alone is worth the peeking-through-the-fingers rental; the rest is just gravy.

The special features add heavily to the rental factor. There’s an excellent piece on how they developed the plant, from sketches to manufacturing, so even if you’re not impressed with the killer plants, you will be impressed with the amount of work that went into them. The one drawback is under “Alternate Endings.” One of the alternate endings is the ending you just watched, so the producers might need a little help with the definition of the word “alternate.” To be fair, the actual alternate ending is worth viewing. 

Rent if: You like gore, Mayans, Gregor Mendel, botany and/or angry flowers.
My take: It’s a must-rent both for the move and the special features.

Once I heard the line, “my ex-boyfriend works for a spirit photography
magazine,” I knew where this movie was heading. Now maybe that level of
convenient contrivance isn’t fair to the writer. After all, my
super-model ex-girlfriend is an ex-SEAL working for a wise-cracking
commando unit that investigates paranormal activities, so maybe I
should be more sympathetic to such dialogue.

Rachael Taylor ( Transformers ) and Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek)
do their damnedest to act in this stinker, but even their best isn’t
good enough. Taylor gets to try 20 different ways to trying to look
uncomfortable in awkward cross-cultural social situations, while
Jackson has to slog through more death scenes that the guy playing
Hamlet at summer stock. Is there an actor’s equivalent of the Purple
Heart? If so, then please give it to Joshua Jackson for not phoning in
his performance here.

The plot is simple: Ghosts show up in pictures. And they come
bearing messages. However, even though they can interact with the
physical world to kill people, these same ghosts can’t pick up a pen
and jot down a quick note on a Post-It to tell you what that message
is. Somewhere in the mad gold rush to remake Asian horror flicks,
writers and directors and producers forgot you actually have to make
the remake good. Shutter could very well be the movie that officially kills J-Horror, K-Horror and even T-Horror (as the original Shutter
was made in Thailand). In fact, Asian horror movies may already be
dead, we’re just seeing a bunch that have come back to life as bad
movies about ghosts coming back to life … and … oh, screw it, it’s
too confusing.

Likewise, the special features in this one are a joke. There is a
piece in here called “The Hunt for the Haunt: Tools and Tips for Ghost
Hunters.” It’s a bad music loop with a loop of fog in the background,
and nothing but white letters spelling out text like, “If you want to
find ghosts in your area, type ‘haunted’ into Google and see what comes
up.” Seriously. This thing makes corporate Power Point presentations
look like a George Lucas special effects extravaganza — it’s almost
worth the rental just so you can see if I’m exaggerating.

Rent if: You still can’t get enough doe-eyed, angry, black-haired killer girls.
My take: Don’t rent it if you can find re-runs of Matlock, the McNeill Lehrer Report or YouTube videos of paint drying.

Asylum has no fancy DVD extras, but after dealing with the “features” on the Shutter DVD, perhaps that’s for the best. So, all we can do is look at the movie itself. Which unfortunately for Asylum,
pretty much rules this out as a rental. This is standard-formula teen
slasher stuff: Half of a moldy, dark and dank asylum is converted into
a cheery college dorm. When our freshman orientation class discovers
it’s where a mean doctor once performed horrible experiments, they do
what a GGLYP must do — they immediately break into the unfinished,
moldy, dark and dank section of the asylum, thereby courting individual
destruction at the hands of said doctor.

You’ve got your stock supernatural bad guy, an attempt at a
franchise character complete with a unique weapon of mass murder.
There’s a Nightmare on Elm Street -style
concept, in that instead of each character having their scary dream
that kills them, each character flashes back to their “big hidden
secret,” which, of course, kills them. Trouble is, these big hidden
secrets defy logic, as do the killer’s powers, his dialogue and his nipple-clamp outfit. I expected Anchorman ‘s
Ron Burgundy to pop on-screen at any moment and say “That doesn’t make
any sense.” Ron Burgundy’s sudden appearance in a horror movie, of
course, would be totally random, but that would make it fit right in
with everything else in Asylum.

Rent if: You enjoy smashing yourself in the face repeatedly with a hammer.
My take: You don’t make something this bad by accident — this was a malicious, pre-meditated act.

So there’s your look at some of the latest horror for your home-viewing entertainment. You’ll probably rent Shutter and Asylum anyway, just to see if I’m making this all up. I’m not. And if you doubt me, I’ve got a hammer you can borrow…

scott75.jpgScott Sigler writes tales of hard-science horror, then gives them away as free audiobooks at His hardcover debut Infected is available in stores now. If
you don’t agree with what Scott says in this blog, please email him Please include all relevant personal
information, such as your address and what times you are not home, in
case Scott wishes to send someone to “discuss” your opinions.

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