The Ruins (2008)

Ok, so this flick has been staring out at me from the deep, dark depths of my miniscule DVD collection, for over a year. I’ve read the book and thought it was great. It’s a creepy ‘read’ made creepier by the fact that the author, Scott Smith (who also wrote the terrific book ‘A Simple Plan’) managed to write a group of likeable, and more importantly, believeable characters…and then, basically, put them through Hell. What I knew about the cinematic adaptation was that it was quite faithful and apparently, quite effective. So…somehow I deduced that I would have to be in a certain, nihilistic kind of a mood to be able to tackle The Ruins, hence the looonnng span of time between ‘purchase’ and ‘viewing’. And after an appropriately shitty day at work…it was time. For those of you who don’t know, the story follows a group of 2 realistically good-looking and charismatic 20something couples as they decide to get off the ‘tourist path’ on their vacation in Mexico. After meeting up with a friendly German dude, they decide to accompany him into the jungle to check out a supposedly hidden Mayan ruin and hopefully…the German’s recently missing archeologist brother. After their arrival, shit goes from bad to worse as they are cornered by a group of modern day Mayans. The Mayans force the frightened group to the top of the stone structure and then camp out at the bottom; armed and determined. As the group tries to take stock of their unexpected and perilous situation, they discover that they are not the first people to find themselves in this unique (and awful) positon…and that they’re not alone. I’ve used this comparison before but it applies here too. This chilling movie treat acutely reminded me of The Descent, not in the manner of the ‘horror’ (however, that COULD apply here) but more in how the main characters are presented. Here, they’re all given characterizations that ‘ring true’; I believed them as they did the care-free vacation ‘thing’. This trait gives added weight to the horror when it befalls them as, by the time it sets upon them, you don’t want them to die…or worse. There really wasn’t one character that stood out as ‘weak’. Discerning filmgoers’ll probably recognize the cute-as-a-button Jena Malone (Sucker Punch) and Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) as Jonathan Tucker (Hostage) turned in an inspired and nicely intense turn as the del facto leader of the frantic group while Sexy Blond Laura Ramsey goes from being…well…sexy, to being a blood splattered lunatic fueled by primal fear and stress fatigue. Good times all around! The gore effects are very well done, a couple times actually giving me the physical ‘ick’ feeling. SPOILERS-the main villian of the flick (and book) is a sentient and crafty species of ancient, carnivorous vines that call the Mayan temple home. Some of the most effective ‘scares’  involve small sounds or barely-discernable movement of the “Did that plant just move?”-variety. Some of the ‘behaviours’ of the hungry vine are downright disconcerting, especially when it goes into Psychological Torture Mode. All in all, this one is an unpleasant and horrific flick, albeit in the best senses of the words. The acting is good, the concept is nasty, the camera work and editing are inspired and the ‘horror’ is ugly. The Ruins will get under your skin….and if this genre works for you…so will this movie.

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