Entries Comments

The Ruins Slowly Rebuilds Faith in Horror


The Ruins
Directed by Carter Smith
Written by Scott B. Smith based on his novel
Paramount/Dreamworks, 2008

We’ve seen a lot of American tourists getting offed in horror lately, as some sado-masochistic punishment for being perceived by other countries as spoiled. It’s a decent political statement, and the horror comes from being in a strange land far away from safety. Yet, like most horror films, the subgenre has suffered some major blows like Turistas, Primeval, and Hostel, Part II.

In The Ruins, young Americans Amy (Jena Malone), her boyfriend Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), her best friend Stacy (the smokin’ Laura Ramsey, who gloriously, quite gratuitously, shows off some skin), and Stacy’s boyfriend Eric (Shawn Ashmore) are all in Mexico getting drunk and screwing around. They are about to finish their vacation, but the idea comes up that they need to soak in some culture. A German tourist, Mathias (Joe Anderson), wants to go to a former Mayan city to retrieve his brother, who wandered off with some babe. He offers to help the Americans see the site. Normally, this is the exact kind of guy in horror movies who sets up the awful things to follow, but he’s legit.

When they get out to the ruins, they are met by some natives, who are trying to warn them not to go into the vegetation-covered site, but only speak Spanish. There is lots of confusion, and by the end of it, one of the crew is dead, and they run up the stairs of the ancient temple. But strangely, the natives do not follow. And, of course, it’s because they know better. But they wait for the tourists to make one wrong move…which would be trying to escape. And there’s good reason why they do this.

The distraught tourists get to the top to hear a cell phone, obviously Joe’s brother’s, but it’s down in this steep hole created at the summit of the ruin. A chain of events occurs and by next morning, we find out that the vegetation surrounding the building is murderously sinister.

The Ruins immediately scores some points by draining a situation completely of hope, thereby creating that all-important “sense of dread” that horror movies need. It sets up the fact that the tourists can either choose to die the weird, supernatural way, or by the concerned natives. The scenes involving the ringing cell phone are the best: have you ever thought about something cool for a movie to do, and then it surprises you by doing it? The Ruins does and it’s great when it happens.

However, it’s not a complete success. Much of the horror is based on blood, guts, and bone-crunching, which has its place, but I would have loved to see more exploration of the ruins rather than having everyone pretty much stay on the summit the whole time. It wastes a few opportunities.

But overall, this is much better than expected and worth your horror dollar.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.