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The Ruins

A movie directed by Carter Smith

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A near miss. Some bad dialogue and early pacing deflate the creepiness

  • Sep 29, 2008
  • by
Four young, attractive Americans are in Mexico for a few days of Spring Break-like laying around and drinking. They meet a young, attractive German guy who encourages them to go with him to visit a Mayan ruin that is off the tourist radar. You see, his brother, an archeologist, has gone there with his girlfriend...otherwise they'd have the place to themselves. The Americans, in a nod towards soaking up some history & culture, accompany their new friend to the ruin, which is nothing more than a modest sized Mayan pyramid, fairly well covered in some sort of vine with red flowers. Along the way, they pick up a young Greek man, also on his way to the ruin.

They arrive and are suddenly surrounded by some natives, who speak Mayan, not Spanish, and their threatening gestures drive the 6 tourists up the pyramid and into the foliage. This, based on the reaction of the natives, is REALLY BAD. In fact, after touching a plant, the Greek man tries to leave, and is promptly killed by the natives. So our remaining "heroes" find they are kinda stuck at the top of the pyramid. Cell phones don't get signals, the natives are vigilant and vicious and there is no sign of the German archeologist and his girlfriend.

This is the setup for the laughable yet somehow insidiously creepy THE RUINS. I've never read the book, so cannot judge it's faithfulness to the source material. I can't imagine it's all that important.

As you might guess (or seen from the trailers), all is not well at this pyramid. The seemingly harmless vines actually have fairly malevolent powers, and the 5 tourists have a pretty miserable, scary time of it.

I hesitate to tell you more of the plot. This film isn't terrifically gory, nor are the effects even terribly convincing. But as time wears on and the humans become more desperate to escape...the movie begins to become effective despite itself. There is just something inherently creepy in what happens. The idea of things literally getting under your skin is just a little too cringe-worthy to simply be laughed off.

It's a very simple, direct story that could have been readily told in 20 minutes less time...but the writers REALLY stretched to get us to 90 minutes. The opening 15 minutes or so establishes the dynamics between the lead characters, and this portion is DEADLY dull. We know it's obligatory...but I couldn't help thinking about the far superior THE DESCENT, which took about 6 minutes to establish its characters. Yes, it did it in a fairly clich├ęd manner, but at least it got it over with in a hurry. THE RUINS seems to take forever to get going.

The acting is spotty too. Best known, and least successful is Jena Malone, who seems like the person you'd least want to take on spring break with you. Whiny and high-maintenance...she does little to win our sympathy, particularly when she gets drunk and we see how poorly she behaves with her inhibitions down.. Far better is relative unknown Laura Ramsey, who endures some of the greatest hardships and is most successful at translating her fear right to the audience. Jonathan Tucker ("The Black Donnellys") is okay as Malone's boyfriend...he is at least suitably annoyed at her through most of the film. Joe Anderson (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE) is Mathias, their new German friend, and he lays on a thick accent, a little more that is very convincing.

But we all know we watch these kinds of movies for the thrills and chills. I wouldn't say it delivers many thrills, but there are a decent number of chills, if you have the patience to wait for them.

I am literally completely on the fence about recommending this movie. If you like the kind of film I've described, check it out. If you normally shy from the genre...this is NOT the film to change your mind.

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More The Ruins (movie) reviews
review by . April 29, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****    "The Ruins" has some of the clearest cinematography I've seen in the dark, dark places of any horror movie in some time. While most genre pictures contain nighttime scenes in which most things on-camera are nigh impossible to see, everything here looks absolutely crisp. When a character descends into a pitch black abyss, we see only what we need to see; and that's plenty. When night falls, the torches of the secondary antagonists light the way, and even then, …
review by . August 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Not Exactly A
Scientists have theorized that there are certain extinct plant life that can possibly induce partial mind control through their spores. They can cause anxiety, paranoia and fear to protect themselves from predators. Fossils have been found to support these theories and some plant life are even believed to be meat eaters and is capable of attracting prey. One plant that still exists today is the “Venus Flytrap” which is a predatory plant, so what do you think the possibilities are for …
review by . March 25, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
I'll admit that when I first saw the trailer for "The Ruins" in theaters, I was pretty interested in seeing it. Once in finally came out, however, I decided that it looked more like a DVD rental. In my opinion, I was correct.    The film begins with a young lady in a dark room crying for help. As usual, she can't get a signal on her cellphone and she is eventually pulled into the darkness screaming all the way. From there, the film introduces us to four of the primary players …
review by . September 08, 2008
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this movie and having not read the book I was surprised to find it to be pretty decent. It starts off just like an original horror movie but shift as you get further into it. The Ruins takes place in Mexico with four college-age kids (Tucker, Malone, Ashmore and Ramsy) and another guy (Anderson), the latter who takes them to a Mayan temple where his brother is working supposedly on a dig. When they get there, a bunch of angry Mexican-Myans attack them, they …
review by . October 29, 2008
The Ruins - Movie
Couples Amy and Jeff, and Stacy and Eric are vacationing in Mexico. By the pool they meet a German named Mathius, who says his brother Heinrich is missing and he's going to go look for him near some ruins. Mathius talks the couples into going with him. Heinrich left a map showing the location of the ruins, far off the tourist area of the Yucatan.     The next day the couples and Mathius set out, accompanied by Demitri, a Greek friend who doesn't speak English. After a bus, a …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this movie


Whether you consider plants a source of terror or not will ultimately determine how you feel about the grisly horror movieThe Ruins, but director Carter Smith and his cast and crew certainly give their all in bringing the chills of Scott Smith's novel to the big screen. Jena Malone (Saved) and Shawn Ashmore (theX-Menfranchise) are the name actors in a pair of American couples down Mexico way who are ambushed by hostile Mayans and forced to the top of an ancient temple, where a monstrous and diabolically clever entity awaits them. Director Smith and his talented crew (which includes cinematographer Darius Khondji ofSe7enfame and composer Graeme Revell) create a visually impressive spookshow but can't quite deliver genuine suspense (gore, however, is handled capably), and Scott Smith's script boils away much of the character development and mounting terror in his book, which also strands the likeable cast. The movie's monster, so alarming and imaginative in the original novel, is likely to provoke as many laughs as screams from filmgoers, especially when it reveals its unique talent.-- Paul Gaita
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Director: Carter Smith
Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror
Release Date: April 4, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Scott B. Smith
DVD Release Date: July 8, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 30min
Studio: Dreamworks SKG
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