Directed by Carter Smith
Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson
Paramount Home Video
Release Date: July 8, 2008
I’m finding that approaching this review of The Ruins is a bit more of a challenge than I expected it to be. While I have a pretty solid idea of my opinion of the film, I’m also realizing that over the years I’ve become very picky toward some genres, especially the horror genre. With that in mind, I’ll try and offer my own opinion along with a little open-minded perspective for others interested in checking this out.
The first 30 minutes or so are pretty boring, as we meet Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), Amy (Jena Malone), Stacy (Laura Ramsey), and Eric (Shawn Ashmore) — the typical hot, young group of kids on vacation — and they’re deciding whether to do the scary-sounding, “we probably shouldn’t” activity. In this case, a random German dude named Mathias (Joe Anderson) who finds one of the girls’ missing earrings invites them to join him in meeting up with his archaeologist brother at some ancient Mayan ruins. Naturally, seeing as how the man has a very friendly German accent, the kids decide to go on the adventure and after a few minor complications, they arrive at the mysteriously hidden site; this is where the chaos begins.
Mere moments after arriving at their destination, a native man shows up and begins screaming at them for some unapparent reason; not long after, he’s joined by two more natives who join in the madness. The group tries to pay them, they try to show a picture of Mathias’s archaeologist brother and neither seems to work. When one of the lesser characters steps on some vegetation to get Amy’s camera and then moves toward the natives to give it to them and is shot with an arrow, then a gun shot to the head, we know that something is very wrong here. After this shocking event, the rest of the kids rush up the stairs of the Mayan ruins to the very top where they watch many, many more natives come to the edge and build camp and they try and figure out what the hell is going on. From here on out, a string of terrible misfortunes lead to many injuries, some mental de-stability, and the discovery that the vines that are consuming this structure may be a lot more deadly than one would assume.
The Ruins is a movie that tries to be a unique offering in the world of horror, but in doing so, it offers many questionable moves and a whole lot of head scratching. The movie is chock full of extremely forced situations and I found myself saying “Who would? Why would you? What?” on many different occasions. Because of this, the flow of the movie was severely jagged and distracting. Without giving anything away, those of you who have seen it will recall a scene at the end that involves a knife that brought the ultimate question mark to this movie. I didn’t see the movie in theaters, so I can’t tell you what they added to this unrated offering, but I didn’t see a whole lot that I would consider too extreme for theaters, aside for a scene that involved big f’n rocks and surgery, but that seemed pretty important to the movie (and was also my second biggest head-scratching moment), so I doubt they’d have cut it theatrically. I hoped so badly to finally get a decent horror movie because I crave them, but I found myself once again let down, although I will say it was better than most stuff you see these days.
Even though I was ultimately let down by this movie, I would still probably recommend it to some of the less-picky fans of the genre. In a world filled with PG-13 kiddie-horror movies and an eventual 20-movie Saw collection, The Ruins offers something a little different and it definitely has some impressive, cringe-worthy gore. The performances weren’t brilliant, but they got the job done and while I had many questions with the story and how things played out, I thought the movie had some decent visuals and good special effects.
There’s not a whole lot in the special features, but what there was, I actually enjoyed.
DVD Bonus Features
Making of Specials
The DVD has three different featurettes that cover all of the various production elements of the film, from adapting the novel, picking locations, choosing the perfect type of plant to use, building the set, the elements, and some very impressive and messy prosthetic limb work to minimize CG usage. Many members of the cast and crew talk about the production including Ben Stiller, who was a executive producer on the project and let me tell you, to watch a movie like this and then see Ben Stiller talking about it… was a bit weird.
There was three scenes deleted from the final cut. Usually I’ll watch deleted scenes and they’re minuscule and pointless but surprisingly enough, the deleted scenes here (the first two anyway) are important because had they been left in, they would have changed the entire layout of the situation that the group was in.
This special feature had me all messed up, so I won’t bother explaining and ruining. Let’s just say that there’s one very big difference between the original theatrical ending and the unrated DVD ending, and no, it wasn’t so extreme that it had to be cut to get an R-rating, so why they changed it, I have not a clue. There’s also an alternate ending which I personally thought was better than both other endings. Don’t you hate when that happens?
To sum it all up, The Ruins is an interesting little ride that horror fans and gore hounds might find worth checking out at least once. For me personally, though, it was a story with potential that was sloppily constructed, full of cliches, forced situations, and confusing decisions. Maybe it had to do with the author of the book trying to adapt his own work into a script, I can’t really say. My guess would be to track down the book over the movie.
As a horror movie, I’ll give this a 6 out of a possible 10 — but overall, I’d have to give it a mediocre 4.