Review: The Ruins

Directed by: Carter Smith
Written by: Scott B. Smith
Starring: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson, Sergio Calderón
Released: 2008 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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Give The Ruins some credit – it isn’t an American remake of an Asian horror movie. But – and it’s a big “but” – it is based on Scott Smith’s rather average novel telling the tale of four American holidaymakers who, in trying to find a little adventure to end their vacation, stumble across an old Mayan temple that houses something particularly nasty. When it becomes obvious the locals won’t let them leave, going as far as shooting and killing one of their friends, the group become imprisoned on a relic that refuses to stay dormant.

You’d be forgiven thinking director Carter Smith’s The Ruins would feature an old Mayan temple, teenage foe, and decaying, bandage-clad mummies chewing on limbs and chasing screaming blondes, but prepare to be surprised. Although the film does feature a Mayan temple and teenage foe, it leaves the mummies and the curses to the worlds of Stephen Sommers’ movies.

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However, while you won’t know what’s lurking in the temple – what can only be described as the tourist trap to end all tourist traps – you’ll still feel like you’ve been here before. Scott Smith, who adapts his own novel for the screen, fails to recreate the tension and high drama of his brilliant A Simple Plan which became a successful novel as well as a superb, Oscar-nominated film directed by Sam Raimi. Here the girls are cardboard cut-outs from other movies, and we get the tired scene of a blonde girl stripping naked leaving very little to the imagination both in terms of her “T and A” and her eventual demise. You just know she’s going to get killed in some horrific way because, as was so beautifully exampled in Scream – sex kills in teenage horror movies. And does any of the relationship angst and pop-culture asides matter at all? The answer: No. It’s all just a set-up for the usual tricks, conventions, and jump-out-of-your seat moments we’ve all enjoyed before.

And The Ruins has its fair share of scares. When our intrepid explorers first arrive at the temple you’ll be shocked at how the locals treat anyone with a camera. There’s also a lovely moment for gore fans when one of the group needs medical attention on a leg wound. Turn away at this point if you’re squeamish. Yet, while the film has its moments, there’s too much time when nothing really happens, and the whole thing is weakly held together with a sub-plot that feels contrived. On top of this, the antagonist isn’t the most imaginative creation from the sadistic pits of the horror filmmaker’s stable and prefers its fodder to beat themselves up rather than seek out its prey. This means the baton is firmly in the hands of the actors who have to make the oppressive force feel real and maintain a level of plot-bubbling tension. To the actors credit they all fit the bill – Good Looking College Students in Peril – but they can’t do anything to help a script that plays on the same cliches we’ve chastised before.

Essentially, The Ruins tries to mould a different idea onto a template originally created by Wes Craven in his film The Hills Have Eyes. Recently, we’ve seen the likes of Wrong Turn and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes tread similar ground and do it better than Smith’s The Ruins. If you’re seeking horror that’s modern, short and snappy, and made for the Scream generation, The Ruins is for you. If you’re looking for invention and originality look elsewhere.

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Castor Reply

    This movie was terrible, it just never could be scary with freaking plants eating people. Not bad enough to be funny or campy, just bad.

  2. Rodney Reply

    Haven’t seen it, but wouldn’t mind a bit of mindless fun.

    The Crazies, on the other hand, was actually pretty decent, if you get a chance to watch it!

  3. Thomas Reply

    Unfortunately, it is not mindless fun, but just mindless, annoying and terribly boring. It was so ill-conceived that there was no way of just getting lost in some guilty pleasure of slasher movie with garden fern. I should have known when I read the book that the whole idea was just not a good one to hold up a story…
    http://thomas4cinema.wordpress.com/2008/11/16/the-ruins-carter-smith-2008/

  4. Anna Reply

    Agree with Rodney, Crazies was really good/great.

    I don’t get that even though the whole Mayan culture thing is super interesting and probably has so many ways to approach it in film, there’s no interest in making that kind of stuff and when it is touched upon it sucks hard. Sad.

  5. Sir Phobos Reply

    It’s been years, but I remember liking this. I have the blu-ray, so I’ll re-watch it and see what I think now. I remember it having somewhat of a Decent-ish vibe to it.

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