Review: The Ruins
PLOT: Itís the kind of vacation we all need, when best friends, Amy and Stacy spend some time in Mexico with their boyfriends for rest and relaxation. While having some sun time at the hotel, they meet up with a fellow traveler from Germany. The stranger tells them of a archaeological dig that his brother has made his way to. He tells them that he is going to join him and asks if they would like to come along. And since this is a horror movie, they do. After they arrive, a group of locals force those that have gone near the ruins to stay up inside and not leave. The group are frightened as to what the locals might do, but soon find out they have more to be afraid of the ruins themselves.
Terror has evolved. It is an interesting tag line to the new horror feature, THE RUINS. It sounds like something you would have heard back in the Seventies or Eighties. And the truth is, this film harkens back to that era in horror. Especially with itís man vs. nature route minus the mad doctor or what have you. I have been waiting for a horror film like THE RUINS for quite awhile. Iím not saying that this is the best genre film I have seen, but in its own frighteningly beautiful way, it is in fact one of the most refreshingly original horror films in the past few years. First off, it is based on a novel and it is not a remake or a sequel. It also doesnít necessarily try to be a homage to a certain age in film. Yes, it reminds me of a bygone era, but certainly not because it begs for the comparison. I really miss these type of films where a few humans are pitted against a foe that is not a man with a mask, not a zombie, or even a scary ghost but something so monstrous, only nature could produce it.
As I was thinking about writing this review, I wondered how much I could give away. Yes, quite a few have read the book (I havenít) and Iím guessing the really sharp ones out there will get some idea from the trailer and/or the poster. But I donít really want to take away from the experience, only because that is how I saw the film. I had a gist of knowledge regarding the plot, but I tried to steer clear of much more than that. I do know that Stephen King called this the best book of the year upon its release in 2006. The novel, written by Scott Smith has now been adapted by the same Scott Smith. His script for the fascinating A SIMPLE PLAN won him an Oscar, so already it sounds better than your average horror flick. While, I donít think this script will win him the same accolades, I do feel that he has conjured up a strong tale of thrills and chills, and the loss of humanity when faced with it. Horror works better when you see the consequence. And Iím not talking body parts and chewed up intestines. Not that those donít make for a good horror film, but the psychology of fear is usually much more interesting.
Also a wise choice for this film is director Carter Smith. He is mostly known for a well received short called BUGCRUSH. It is a dark and disturbing tale that explores a young gay man coming of age, drugs and gay rape. And frankly, he seemed like a surprising choice for this particular film with his lack of experience. But here it is, he is able to bring these young people to life as they battle nature, each other and the group of people which will not let them escape. He is able to craft a creepy looking film that is drenched in atmosphere. There are many layers here, while not all explored as deep as they could have been because face it, this is a horror film. But as a genre film, it is suspenseful and remains serious as the battle for life and death rages on. It is sort of like CABIN FEVER without the satire or the black humor. And in that aspect, it is comparable to those films of years past because it takes itself sometimes too seriously. But even still, this has charm and fun just like any creature feature should have.
What is the film about you may ask? Well, you have a couple of girlfriends with their boyfriends in tow. They are vacationing in Mexico and when told about an ancient ruin, which another touristís brother has gone to check out, so they decide to come along. From that it sounds like many other horror film being made right now. In fact, when I first read about the film I kept thinking TURISTAS. But when they arrive at the ruins, nobody is there except a group of locals. And unlucky for the tourists, their new friends seem awfully pissed off that this group have disturbed the ruins, and they donít want the uninvited guests to leave, like, at all. And they let them know this in a very clear and brutal way. As the group climb atop the ruin with a not so kind suggestion from men with guns, they are terrified as they try and figure out what these people want. And of course, since this is the type of movie this is, we soon find out it is much worse than the pissed off folks who have forced them up there. But luckily, we are able to get to know these people, whether or not you like them is a different story. I personally did, for the most part.
Part of the reason I liked the sometimes dim characters are the actors themselves. Jena Malone is a wonderful actress and she offers up a very nice performance here, although I think her Amy is probably the most annoying of the group (still damn cute though). Amyís boyfriend is Jeff played by one of the most criminally underrated young actors in film today, Jonathan Tucker. He gives a solid performance as the med-student who takes charge of the hopeless situation. Mr. Tucker is one of the best young actors working today, and here is even more proof. Shawn Ashmore and Laura Ramsey also contribute some terrific work as Eric and Stacy. I was impressed with Ms. Ramsey who really has the most challenging role, along with the fellow German tourist, Mathias played by Joe Anderson. Both of these guys suffered through the more horrific elements that occur during the film, and Joe and Laura are simply fantastic. If you are looking for a fresh and original horror film that delivers on most all accounts, I recommend THE RUINS. Just watch out for plants. My rating 8/10 -- JimmyO