The Ruins (Rated PG-13/R)

Rated 5 Stars


{mosimage}Every PG-13/R movie released in the last three months showed the trailer for The Ruins (91 minutes). At first, this movie looked intriguing, then after the sixth time the trailer flashed on the screen, it started looking a little cheesy. Last week, when the trailer appeared in front of Doomsday I yelled at the screen. Of course, for such an overexposed movie, internet buzz and hype from people who read Scott Smith’s novel (he also scripted) guaranteed that I would at least give this one a try. Since the only other movie that looked promising this week was Stop-Loss (and I love Kimberly Pierce╔but that does not look like a movie a reviewer can sum up in 500 words), I wandered in to see The Ruins somewhat reluctantly.  

Once I got past the slow start (why spend so much time watching the leads drink tequila?  Let’s get chopping!) I was pleasantly surprised to discover a somewhat original, fast paced, horror movie filled with above average characterization. Remembering, of course, that the average horror movie characterization involves creating obnoxious one-note characters the audience is glad to see mutilated.  

Medical student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and his girlfriend Amy (Jenna Malone), along with Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and his girlfriend Stacy (Laura Ramsey) head for an archaeological dig with Mathias (Joe Anderson) and Dimitri (Dimitri Baveas) on the last day of their Cancun vacation. Once at the site, creepy non-talking Mayan children fetch even creepier weapon-wielding Mayan adults, and the group is forced up a vine-covered pyramid. At first, they decide to conserve their supplies and wait for rescue, but supernatural attacks sow panic and dissent among them. Their cell phones prove useless, and various injuries are sustained by several members of the group as they search for a way off the pyramid. Gradually, they realize that help will not arrive in time to save their lives, and the group is slowly whittled down one by one.  

The usual horror movie desperation occurs, but it occurs alongside some effective character development. Take bets on who will survive, and you may end up surprised, as characters that initially appear strong quickly crack under pressure. For a movie I expected to dislike, I was pleasantly engrossed (with the emphasis on “gross”) with the story. The special effects on the mutilation shots made me groan, and there is nice attention to detail on the antagonists and the dead bodies. The lighting is superb, with the sunlit top of the pyramid creating a nice contrast to the dark inner chamber. Unlike many movies, only one or two bits slowed down the pace, and it felt more like 45 minutes than 91. However, with such a strong original plot, it was disappointing that the female leads spent so much time half naked. The male leads get to wear long shorts and shirts, but at least one of the female leads spent most of the movie stripped down to her panties and covered in dirt and blood.  

Overall, a nice little movie that made me forgive Jenna Malone for the self-indulgent travesty that was Corn. The Ruins will play well with Stephen King fans, and anyone who liked The Mist, Day of the Triffids, and Hostel. Bravo director Carter Smith, Bravo.


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