The Ruins (2008)

DVD Cover (DreamWorks Unrated)
Carter Smith Carter Smith
Jonathan Tucker Jonathan Tucker
Jena Malone Jena Malone
Laura Ramsey Laura Ramsey
Shawn Ashmore Shawn Ashmore
Joe Anderson Joe Anderson

5.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Horror, Jungle Film, Natural Horror
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: April 07, 2008
How does one describe a film like "The Ruins", other than to say it's a horror film. I don't want to give anything away, yet it's going to be difficult to pen an interesting review if I don't. So, I guess the best thing I can do is say - SPOILER ALERT. If you read this review, you are going to read some spoilers about the film that will dramatically ruin the affect of seeing it for the first time. So, read at your own risk. I repeat again - read at your own risk. "The Ruins" was a novel written by Scott B. Smith, the man who wrote "A Simple Plan". He has penned the screenplay for this horror film, and it has the feel of someone who actually knows how to write. "The Ruins" is like "Cabin Fever" meets "Apocalypto" meets "Little Shop of Horrors". It blends elements of all different kinds of horror and just throws them at us for a couple of hours. The trailers make it look more like some new update on "Turistas", but it's actually a crafty little shock flick that was both entertaining and surprisingly well acted. Most people are going to go in expecting something a little tamer than what they get, more than likely. But that's okay. Sometimes, it's good to get a little shocked.

The plot is not original. A group of American tourists in Mexico decide to go venturing out to an old Mayan temple in the middle of nowhere. Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) is about to go to medical school and his friends have brought him out to celebrate. His girlfriend, Amy (Jena Malone) likes to get really drunk and hit on other guys. Her best friend, Stacy (Laura Ramsey) and Stacy's boy toy, Eric (Shawn Ashmore), are along for the ride. Also along for the ride is Mathias (Joe Anderson), a German who is the one who told them about the ruins. Once they arrive, they are immediately greeted by local Mayans who are a bit more violent than the Americans would like. After one of them meets a grisly fate, the Mayans force them to the top of the ruins and refuse to let them leave. Quickly, they discover there is something sinister atop the ruins with them, and they slowly start falling prey to the dark forces at work in Mexico. So, most of the film is about a bunch of more than attractive young people getting dirtier and dirtier while getting picked off, one at a time. That might sound like your traditional horror film, and in many ways it is, but "The Ruins" has enough jolts and surprises to keep your strung along the entire way. It's smarter than it appears.

What works here are the dual antagonists. You have both the Mayans at the bottom of the temple and the supernatural forces at work on top of the temple. So, these kids have it coming at them from both directions, all the time. What also works about the film is that it shows how dumb kids can be in a stressful situation, as when the two girls decide to move their friend with a broken back, only to do more harm than good, which is exactly what they knew would happen. Or how about when one of them - the one in medical school - decides to start cutting on another one, knowing that they have no disinfectant for the wound. These are all things rational people might consider. But, what really worked were the 'shock scenes'. This movie is not for the faint of heart. The picture seems like an endless stream of cuts and gashes, rips and tears, oozes and splashes. There will be blood. Characters are picked off in grisly ways, some by the forces at work and some by their friends. You never know who or what is going to turn out to be a murderer. The best scene in the film is when the girls are down in the crevasse and finally discover the source of the cell phone ringing that has been plaguing them since they reached the top of the ruins. Another well-executed scene involves one of the girls starting to suspect there is something growing underneath her skin.

Something else that separates "The Ruins" from most other horror films is the high quality of performance from the actors. These aren't just your typical WB actors. These are established actors who have been doing independent films for years. Jonathan Tucker is well cast as Jeff, and he and Jena Malone work well together as boyfriend and girlfriend. Along with Laura Ramsey and Shawn Ashmore, these four actors really carry the weight of their scenes quite well. You understand just how frightened they are, and you believe their descent into terror quite convincingly. It was so nice to watch a horror film where the actors were actually acting instead of just looking pretty. I guess it's difficult to look pretty when you're covered with blood and dirty, sweaty and unwashed. A lot of horror films show their characters go from dirty to clean, clean to dirty and so forth. Not here. These kids get dirty and they stay that way throughout.

On the whole, "The Ruins" was one of the most affective horror films I have seen this year. I was not really scared watching the film, but it made me jump a couple of times and the shock value alone is well worth the price of admission. But, when I say shock value, don't think I mean something on the lines of "Hostel" or "Saw" - this violence seems more plausible, oddly enough. And the film is just better, on the whole. There wasn't the same kind of cheesiness factor that the other films possess. Kudos to writer Scott B. Smith for handily translating his novel to the screen, even though the ending was different. Kudos to the cast for serving the material far better than most would have. And kudos to the filmmakers for understand that you don't have to have an identifiable villain to make a picture work - you can have more than one, and it can come in all shapes and sizes. "The Ruins" was an entertaining horror flick. I recommend you check it out.

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waxtadpole3657 #1: waxtadpole3657 - added 04/08/2008, 11:47 PM
I just can't get around the fact that this is about killer vines. XD Although most people tell me it's pretty good.
Mr. Mistoffelees #2: Mr. Mistoffelees - added 04/09/2008, 04:21 PM
Well I guess I don't have to wait to watch the movie to see what supernatural threats there are.
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 04/17/2008, 11:48 PM
How does one describe a film like "The Ruins"? Very simply. Terrible. This movie was boring, predictable, chock full of horrendous acting, and downright lame. For those of you who are true horror fans, I would definitely recommend you skip this one. I don't know why I subject myself to movies like this, when I know they're going to be awful. 1/10
bluemeanie #4: bluemeanie - added 04/18/2008, 11:47 AM
I can understand most everything you said, but horrendous acting? If you think this was horrendous acting, then I can't think of any acting that could please you.
Chad #5: Chad - added 07/13/2008, 04:20 AM
I guess I'm not a true horror fan, because I thought this one was freaking great. 9/10.
George Snow #6: George Snow - added 10/30/2008, 12:05 AM
I enjoyed this.

Two questions:

Was I the only one that wanted the brunette dead first? I couldn't stand her.

Did anyone else laugh their asses off during the German's amputation? I had to pause the movie for a minute after it, so I wouldn't miss anything else.
Crispy #7: Crispy - added 10/30/2008, 02:06 AM
"Did anyone else laugh their asses off during the German's amputation?" Guilty
grain of sand #8: grain of sand - added 10/30/2008, 04:47 AM
I really liked this, all but the beginning..
Those plants or vines or whatever looked a lot like pot leaves also, am I wrong?
good ending also... 9/10
brendan #9: brendan - added 11/07/2009, 12:24 PM
i am with 385
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