Sixteen years after Ruby Claire's gangster boyfriend was shot and killed by four associates, a series of gruesome murders takes place at the drive-in movie theatre she now owns. Meanwhile, ...
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Sixteen years after Ruby Claire's gangster boyfriend was shot and killed by four associates, a series of gruesome murders takes place at the drive-in movie theatre she now owns. Meanwhile, the behaviour of her mute daughter Leslie is becoming increasingly strange and a visiting psychic claims that forces from beyond are out for revenge. Written by
Ross Horsley <email@example.com>
"Ruby" will stick with you after viewing it, not because it's a great movie, but because you may be wondering what the hell happened between the beginning and the end.
Director Curtis Harrington was going for a lot of subtle horror in the bizarre story of a former gangster moll named Ruby Claire (Piper Laurie). In the movie's prologue, a pregnant Ruby (displaying the characteristics of a bad mother already by drinking champagne while she's obviously ready to pop any day now) witnesses her lover being gunned down by the members of his own gang of hoods, a traumatic experience that immediately sends Ruby into labor. Or at least makes her moan and clutch her belly.
Naturally the thing to do at this point would be to open a drive-in theater and hire the men who killed your boyfriend as employees, which is exactly what Ruby does. As the film flashes forward sixteen years, we understand that Ruby's daughter, Leslie, is mute and has a bug-eyed expression on her face all the time. She's also showing signs of being possessed by the spirit of Ruby's long-dead lover, who has apparently returned to have his revenge on the now-old guys who shot him to death.
The funny thing about "Ruby" is that it seems like half the picture is missing. There isn't much exposition about who the remaining gang members are, and why we should care when invisible forces slap them around and cause them to hang from whatever's convenient. The reason for the execution at the beginning of the film isn't clear until the conclusion, and even then it's a little murky. We also never really understand why Ruby is so intent on taking care of the men who gunned down her lover in cold blood.
There's a parapsychologist involved in all of this, just so we know what's going on, because without him it would be impossible to understand. He deduces that Leslie's strange behavior (bending over backwards in bed, speaking in a man's voice) is the result of her dead father's spirit possessing her. However, Leslie isn't ever really connected to the events at all. The murders happen when she's not around. There's no real reason for her to be in this movie at all; after all, it's called "Ruby", not "Leslie". The movie is about Ruby and her long-lost lover, and it seems as if the daughter was thrown into the script as an afterthought.
Much is made of the film's abrupt conclusion, which features Ruby willingly walking into a swamp with the apparition of her dead boyfriend, who then suddenly turns into a skeleton and pulls her underneath the water. Apparently the original idea was to have Ruby just disappear under the water, which would have been the more intriguing way to go. But even that wouldn't have changed the fact that "Ruby" isn't very successful. There are only a few creepy scenes in the movie, one of which features Ruby wandering in the deserted theater lot while her lover's voice whispers to her over the drive-in speakers.
There are some great sets, like the drive-in and Ruby's house, and the fact that it's a period piece is great, too. The photography is always interesting. But there is no payoff in this movie. No real shocks, and the ridiculous ending (forced on the film by the producers) mars the whole thing even further. By upping the shock factor and taking care of that problem with the ending, this could have been an atmospheric classic along the lines of "Suspiria". As it stands, it's a minor cult item that goes nowhere.
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