Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Quickie: The Ruins

The Ruins
Release: 04.04.2008
DVD Release: 07.08.2008
Rated R (DVD UR)
1 hour, 31 minutes

Second-Run Seats ($$) <
> Matinee ($$$)

College grads Jeff (Jonathan Tucker, Hostage), Amy (Jena Malone, Donnie Darko), Stacy (Laura Ramsey, Lords of Dogtown) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore, X-Men) are chillin' by the pool as their vacation in Mexico winds to a close. Along comes a friendly German, Mathias (Joe Anderson), who invites them to visit his brother's archaeological excavation of an unmapped Mayan temple. Jeff, excited at the prospect of cultural immersion that does not involve swallowing the worm, convinces his friends to broaden their horizons. Early the next day, they venture off the well-worn tourist path and uncover the elusive location of the vine-ensconced ruins. An enraged local tribe that doesn't speak Spanish corrals the young adults within the bounds of the old temple before anyone can comprehend why. As the tourists' limited supplies dwindle as they struggle to escape, the foursome realizes the tribe isn't malicious; they're safeguarding the world from the evil enclosed in the ruins.

The Ruins, similar in premise but better in execution than The Happening, warns that when plants attack, we are screwed. Quickest to catch onto this phenomenon is Jeff, the hero figure of the group because of his extensive pre-med knowledge and able leadership. Jeff's character is moderately well-developed, unlike the remaining characters who amount to little more than dead weight with no motivations save living to party another day. It's sad because all the actors give emotionally strong portrayals to these hollow shells.

Writer Scott B. Smith (
A Simple Plan) creates a breed of floral vine that employs motility, mimicry and carnivorism to propagate. As the group is injured while trying to escape, the plants take root and fester as does panic and paranoia. The gruesome injuries and infections require some archaic surgical methods to be employed, shifting the impending air of doom of The Ruins into little better than a showcase of brutal evisceration. I'm as much a fan of graphic, gory horror as anyone, but the self-inflicted torture employed destroys what a lot of the appeal this terrible premise held.

With its solid acting and intriguing premise,
The Ruins was on the path to being a quality horror contender. I’m hesitant to admit this, but a stronger focus on character and a little less dipping into the blood bag for cheap thrills would have resulted in a much more gratifying horror film. However, The Ruins is fertile in sequel potential, meaning its creators will have plenty of opportunities to screw it up even worse next go-round.

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  1. I thought they did a decent job with this one, way more satisfying - goretasticness notwithstanding - than the recent spate of J-horror remakes. The cast is outstanding and what makes The Ruins so much more than other similar crapfests [cough - Turistas - cough] is that you can identify with these plain old kids having to make horrifying decisions ... and then paying the price for the choices they've made. I liked it. I had to watch through my fingers for a fair portion but I thought that the strengths of the movie more than made up for its weaknesses.

  2. Very good points. It is MUCH better than the J-horror remakes and miles better than Turistas (oh was that painful) and other torture horror.

    I think I'd have been totally engrossed had they given more back story to the others. I didn't want much, just a little more. Acting was strong. You really feel the helplessness of their situation.

    I may watch this again sometime. There's very few horror flics my sis won't buy so I can borrow it from her and see the unrated content.

  3. Absolutely agreed re: backstory.

    I guess the source material book is pretty good too - and fans of it were ticked that the ending was changed in the movie. I haven't read it (yet) though so I can't really speak to it.

  4. My sis read the book and liked it. I should ask her if the end switch bothered her.