In The Ruins, five attractive twenty-somethings find themselves off the beaten path in Mexico on top of a hidden Mayan temple. Surrounded by locals who will kill them if they leave and haunted by deadly shrubs that inhabit the temple, the young people find themselves dying one by one with little chance for salvation.
While The Ruins may sound pretty stupid on paper, it's actually not the cliche drivel you'd expect of a horror movie. In fact, it's quite a bit different, but does that make it better?
The movie begins with two couples just out of college (Jonathan Tucker and Jena Malone, and Laura Ramsey and Shawn Ashmore) meeting up with an European guy (Joe Anderson) at a beach party. The five decide to travel to a Mayan temple off the tourist track, but their visit is anything but serene. At the base of the pyramid, they are flanked by dozens of locals with rifles and bows and arrows; the five are unable to leave. They make camp at the top of the pyramid, but things are much worse than they could have ever imagined. The pyramid is covered in foliage that can move, kill and enter the skin.
The Ruins has a lot that I feel is required for a good horror movie such as this: some nudity, sex and a fair amount of gore. Beyond that, though, The Ruins is refreshingly different. Most of the movie takes place during the day and in a single location; the horror derives less from scares and more from the hopelessness of the situation; and thankfully, none of the characters are your typical, stupid horror victims. The movie has a good pace and is generally entertaining. Carter Smith has done a good job of adapting the book, written by Scott B. Smith - who also wrote the screenplay. I haven't read the book, but at least the movie didn't turn out to be yet another forgettable horror flick.
That being said, The Ruins isn't amazing. Moderately entertaining is more like it. The movie has its gore, its nudity and its sex, and it has an engaging story, but beyond that, it isn't particularly exciting or scary. Those looking to be freaked out will be sorely disappointed; those looking for a lot of good looking women running through the jungle while being pursued by a monster will also be disappointed. The deadly shrubbery is about as good as it could be, but beyond the obvious, there's not much too it. I'm glad the movie didn't delve into the mystical origins of the plant, but The Ruins doesn't have a fully realized plant or villain.
The DVD also contains several deleted scenes; the alternate ending, while only marginally different, is much better than the one used for the theatrical release.
The Ruins is a good movie, but not a great one. Recommended to those looking for something different, but this is a rental, not a purchase.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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