The Ruins (2008)

It’s hard to believe that Dreamworks, the movie studio founded by media heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen, a studio with such classics to its credit as Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, and American Beauty has now been reduced to releasing the Ruins. Sure, from what I’ve read the Ruins was a surprise success story in horror literature. But its script is nothing but Hostel’s tourists picked up by sleazy foreigner in a country foreign to both groups, and dropped into a torture chamber. Only this time it’s “dropped onto the set of Day of the Triffids instead of a “torture chamber.” So it’s a Mexican Turistas with a bit of Triffids.

I can’t figure out when this film is supposed to take place. The kids (Jeff, Amy, Eric, and Stacy) all have cell phones, they’re Spring Break’ing in Mexico (so they clearly have money), yet they’re still sporting a film camera. Don’t they have digital technology in Cancun?

The kids and Mathias (Joe Anderson), their foreign guide, go to visit a recently discovered Mayan archeological dig where Mathias’ brother is working. After finding the site, they’re attacked by villagers, and cordoned off on the ruins. This attack scene, after having seen the film, turns out to be one of the most brilliant red herrings in recent memory. It’s meaning changes completely once the film is over.

Such subtlety runs throughout the Ruins. Amy (Jena Malone) is the first to climb the ruins, and in one fleeting shot, you can see the infection spreading on her neck. The rash won’t be acknowledged until later, but if you’re quick, it’s already there at the beginning.

Film gains definite ruthless points when a Mayan child gets shot in the head. That’s a Hollywood “law” that most studios won’t dream of breaking. I might’ve been wrong about this one; it’s already better than the Peacemaker.

It even out-grosses Cabin Fever in objectionable sexual content! When the graphically inappropriate Stacy (Laura Ramsey) decides to give Eric (Shawn Ashmore) a final handjob while Amy is laying in the tent a foot behind her! That’s gross my friends, I don’t care how close these girlfriends claim to be. The homage to Eli Roth’s masterpiece coming [pun intended] full circle when Stacy wakes up the next day with flowers growing out of her bloody legs.

Unfortunately the film rushes through all its red herrings and twists too soon. Leaving a middle section where the kids all lay around being miserable and scared. Then they start with the cutting.

I guess you’re supposed to feel for these characters, but after seeing the Triffids-grade effects, it’s hard to take the DIY surgery seriously.

The Ruins is nothing revolutionary; too good to be bad, but not good enough to be a top pick. You wouldn’t pick this one up at the rental place and think, I’ve got to see that! A mid-day, when it’s rainy, horror film. Not scary enough to waste on the prime-night-time watching hours. You’ll forget about it hours after seeing it, which is sometimes better than watching one so bad you remember.

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