That's right. Let it alllll out.
“Stupid People Take A Trip” should be a subgenre in horror it happens so much. Whether the movie is like “Hostel” and “Turistas” or “An American Werewolf In London” and “The Hills Have Eyes”, it seems that leaving your couch is just a bad idea. A lot of these movies do require the main characters to make poor decisions which can range from a simple mistake to “Jesus, no one in the history of anywhere ever could be this stupid!” Regardless, it's once they make their mistake where the movie can either shine or come down with a case of visual amoebic dysentery. And yes, I keep thinking the poster says "The Runs".
The Ruins is a 2008 horror movie starring Jonathan Tucker (100 Girls, Hostage) as Jeff McIntire and Jena Malone (Sucker Punch, Donnie Darko) as his girlfriend Amy. Jeff and Amy, along with their friends Eric (Shawn Ashmore, X-Men, Frozen) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey, The Covenant, She's The Man) are on vacation in Mexico when they meet a German tourist named Mathias (Joe Anderson, The Grey, The Crazies). Mathias tells them that his brother Heinrich went with a female archaeologist to find a hidden Mayan ruin in the jungle. Heinrich has not returned and Mathias asks the group for help. Initially hesitant, they decide to go along, joined by Mathias's friend Dimitri. The group starts climbing the ruins, which is covered in vines, when a group of native villages surround them. Weapons drawn, the villages start screaming at the group and kill Dimitri when he gets too close. They escape to the top of the ruins where they find the remains of camp site. They hear a phone ringing at the bottom of a shaft and Mathias recognizes it as his brother's phone. They lower him down, but the rope breaks, sending Mathias crashing to the ground below. Jeff and Amy descend the ruins, but again the villagers won't let them leave. In anger, Amy throws a bunch of vines which hits a young boy. Terrified, the villagers kill the boy. Amy and Jeff flee back to the top and realize that everyone in the group touched the vines. They lower Stacy down to get Mathias and in the process she cuts her leg. The next morning, Stacy discovers a vine growing out of her wound. Mathias's injured legs are also covered in vines. Amy and Stacy travel down the shaft to retrieve the phone only to discover that it is the vines making the ringing sound. After amputating Mathias's legs, the group begins to unravel from stress, lack of food and water, and loss of hope. The vines continue to creep up on the group, mimicking their words. How will they be able to survive with their sanity dwindling and the vines getting closer and closer?
It's like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad come to life
I like the general idea behind The Ruins because you really don't see many “killer plant” horror movies nowadays. It's the execution that is hit and miss. The movie is slow for the first 40 minutes. Yes, there's some action, but it's not particularly interesting or thrilling. Up until that point, we have to suffer through the usual “annoying young people in a foreign land” routine with a dash of relationship issues. Most of the characters are pretty annoying up until the action starts, but they could have been worse. The acting is fine and the direction is good. I'm sure she's heard it before, but Jena Malone does look similar to Kristen Stewart. Thankfully she's not as bland and emotionless as Ms. Stewart. The killer vines look pretty good and I really enjoyed that they made mimicking sounds. It was a nice twist and was not overdone. There are a few good scenes of blood and gore which may make people with a weaker stomach ill.
My biggest issue with The Ruins is that it's not sure what type of horror movie it wants to be. It has flashes of good ideas and some good scenes, but it doesn't quite bring things together. I think the problem is that the movie wants to hit on too many passable notes instead of focusing on one good note. The story has the potential to be a great psychological horror movie with the group's isolation and the creeping knowledge that they are going to die. There is no escape, no one is coming to help, and they are exposed to the elements. Just when the movie seems to be going in that direction, we get action and violence with the vines. Then we get gruesome blood and gore from amputations. True all these things fit together, but none of them have time to shine. We get lots of little good things instead of one or two great things. Sometimes less can be way more.
Feed me, Seymour!
The Ruins has lots of good little ideas, but is unable to come together to make for one great watch. The lack of focus on what the movie wants to be hurts the overall watching experience. If it wanted to be psychological, it should have went that route. If it wanted to be a monster for, it should have been a monster movie. It's a slow first 40 minutes, but things do eventually pick up. There is a decent amount of action and a few unexpected scenes of gore. The acting is mediocre, but the direction is good. The Ruins does have a few good scenes, so it's worth a watch if you're looking for something new. You won't be blown away, but you'll appreciate the effort.