The Ruins - Unrated (2008)
The Ruins is similar to both The Mist and Cloverfield in so far that it is rather bleak and unrelenting movie. And like the aforementioned films, its strength lies in the manner in which it tackles the subject of people facing their own death in a credible fashion. In The Ruins the protagonists when faced with the prospect of their own demise quickly descend in to panic and resolutely refuse to face facts. Although these are negative themes that may not be to everyone’s tastes, they make The Ruins both gripping and genuinely scary.
Four Americans on holiday in Mexico meet up with a German Tourist on his way to meet his archaeologist brother, who has recently discovered a new Mayan ruin. Taking the opportunity to see some of the countries heritage first hand, they decide to head off in to the jungle. On arrival they find a Mayan pyramid that is covered in vines and creepers. It would appear that the locals are not too happy with them trespassing and they find themselves herded at gun point in to the ruins. It soon becomes apparent that the ancient temple harbours a deadly secret and that the siege outside is the least of their problems.
Author Scott Smith’s screenplay, adapted from his own novel, effectively depicts American middle class twenty somethings. The characters are well defined and not as unlikeable as one has come to expect from this genre of movie. Trainee doctor Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) is by far the most sympathetic character who keeps his head while his colleagues fail to grasp their situation. Director Carter Smith builds tension in a measured fashion and takes a traditional approach to revealing the films antagonist. There is also only a minimal amount of explanation regarding its predatory nature. He does not however hold back on the shocks, particularly in the unrated US DVD version. One scene rivals Misery for leg related trauma.
The Ruins despite its modern setting owes a lot to such films as The Day of the Triffids, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Descent. It plays on primeval fears of isolation, hidden predators as well as the alien and abstract nature of plants. The film benefits from a very subtle score that avoids punctuating the shocks and therefore making them melodramatic. The plausible characters behave as they should. As ever in life the most intelligent and sympathetic martyr themselves to save their less worthy friends. Despite having an ending that is somewhat formulaic The Ruins is still a rewarding horror film and is most certainly a cut above the standard of the genre. For the best results, watch late at night in a darkened room. Just ensure that you’re not sitting next to any pot plants.