It wouldn't be horror flick without the obligatory hot chicks.Yep, The Ruins gets ruined, taking a huge turn for the worse-for the characters, not the audience. I actually let it bypass my "despise-o-meter" entirely.
It starts off in a formulaic manner: the four main vacationing characters (med student, geek-girl, slut, surfer-dude) are all white, yuppified and overtly nauseating, making you wish they could be killed within seconds. But oddly enough, the director (first-timer Carter Smith) doesn't waste a bunch of time forcing these people down your throat and had the foresight to add some nudity almost immediately.
The tourists receive an invitation to some Mayan ruins from a German guy to accompany his brother at an archaeological site. When they arrive at the secretive ruins, trouble is lurking. Things change and the movie actually shows some merit in originality. Appearing from nowhere, villagers force the hapless vacationers to ascend the ivy- covered steps, at either bow and arrow or gun point, to be sacrificed.
The first kill is impressive.
What transpires is survival. Atop the once-renowned temple is a big excavation hole, resembling a well, with plenty of dead bodies strewn around, accompanied empty tents, creeping vines and the ring of hidden cell phones, but definitely no escape route. The armed villagers have camped at the base making sure.
Surprisingly, the characters suddenly don't seem to deserve to die. Their obnoxiousness subsides and you actually start feeling their pain. Knowing they are totally doomed, the desperate vacationers expression of hope is actually somewhat touching.
Then there are the vines. They creep into your skin if you cut yourself or haul you off if you die. Their little rosy-red blossoms can recreate any sound they want (cell phone, wind, chick going nuts etc).
The horror comes from the survivors themselves, not the possessed vines and singing blossoms. The characters inflict pain and terror on each other through their blunders and misguided decisions with surprising realism.
The evil power surrounding the ruins is never explained, and that's actually OK because if they did try to reason it out, it would likely prove ludicrous. And like the characters, the audience should take the film at face value. Ruins has a ton of blood and is no slouch on the gore. Picture a science-project dissection with a hunting knife that reveals vines crawling under the skin. There is the mandatory-booze-and-hot-skillet amputation scene and one transfer-of-a-dude-with-a-broken-back-to-a-makeshift-stretcher sequence which is true realistic gore. My horror acting award goes to Laura Ramsey whose transformation from goofy blonde to demented paranoid psychopath is outstanding. Insanity becomes her pastime.
Horror movies can be my favorite form of comedy, but I usually categorize this specific genre (hostages in foreign counties) as dubious. Ruins is not a great film by any standards, but it manages to paint a surreal, yet vulnerable story of fearful hopelessness and tragic doom that didn't get me laughing. Well, not as much as usual.
Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey. Directed by Carter Smith