Between escape room group adventure games and extreme haunted houses, horror fans are taking their love for scares off the page and screen and into the real world. Ruin Me, a Shudder exclusive, shows how terribly wrong things can go if these fake scares get too real.
Dubbed the ultimate horror fan experience, Slasher Sleepout is supposed to scare even the most granite-faced horror fan. An equal mix of Outward Bound and puzzle solving, this expensive and exclusive experience is aimed toward those who like a good scare while outwitting their opponents. Alex (Marcienne Dwyer) is not really a horror fan, but she is a supportive girlfriend and has a good head for riddles, so off into the woods she goes with boyfriend Nathan (Matt Dellapina) for a weekend of fake blood and campfires. Just to keep it interesting, joining the fun are a group of mismatched participants who all have varying degrees of horror knowledge and competition bloodlust. Though the group solve each task faster when they work together, the desire to win the whole thing takes over each of them from time to time.
Although everything goes according to plan at first, things take an unexpected turn when a crazed man appears at their camp the first night and slices Nathan’s arm with a very real knife. Is this a part of the game, or is it no longer just a game?
Given the lack of a solid understanding of what they’ve signed up for at Slasher Sleepout, Ruin Me does a good job of keeping both the audience and Alex guessing about what’s included in the weekend of games. Much like 2016’s Fear, Inc., it’s impossible for the characters to tell where the real horror begins and where their contracted fake horror ends.
Beyond your typical guessing game, however, is a well-developed central character in Alex. She has a history and brings baggage with her. Unlike the shorthand development of the less important characters, we get to know her through her actions and reactions, not just by being told what makes her tick. While she’s there as the resigned and supportive girlfriend, her motivation and relationship with Nathan are much more complicated than that.
Ruin Me has a good amount of blood, both fake and “fake,” but it doesn’t use gore as a way to build its scares. Instead, blurring the lines between reality and trickery, and crawling inside Alex’s perception of the world, keep the film tense. It starts all fun and games, but doesn’t take long before the group stop smiling and starts screaming.
Despite some clumsy acting and a little forced dialogue, Ruin Me is a magnetic take on a new realm of horror entertainment.