If horror movies have taught me anything it’s to run in the opposite direction whenever anyone suggests a visit to a little tourist spot that ‘no-one knows about’.
It’s not worth it! You could get stranded! You could be left to the whims of a hostile environment! You could be trapped by unforgiving foliage! Just stay home, really.
The Ruins is adapted from a novel of the same name by Scott B. Smith, who also wrote the screenplay.
What Is The Ruins About?
Two young American couples on holiday in Mexico get friendly with a German tourist who is searching for his brother – an archaeologist with whom he has lost contact. They team up and hike to an ancient Mayan temple, hidden off the beaten track.
Surprise surprise, this turns out to be a bad idea. The locals are terrified of the temple and, at gun point, refuse to let anyone who gets near it leave.
Trapped atop the temple and with no phone signal, we settle in for a horror movie that mixes up isolation, desperation, and predation.
Considering the movie is essentially setting-locked much rests on how well you can wriggle into the characters.
Look at any sit-com and which episode tends to be the best? The one where the cast are trapped and have nothing but good dialogue to fill the run time.
Sadly, The Ruins struggles beyond ‘fodder’.
The Ruins Official Trailer
Is The Ruins Worth watching?
Our duo of couples are mostly indistinguishable from each other. Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) has a controlling angle and Stacey (Laura Ramsey) makes snappier decisions, but little distinguishes them from Shawn Ashmore or Jena Malone’s characters.
The Ruins tries to trade on marooned people under pressure, but the lack of distinct personalities undercuts what could have been a good thriller.
Horror is born of the unknown and The Ruins manages to obfuscate its threat decently well. It’s clear that the vines surrounding the temple terrify the locals, but why?
After a disastrous fall into the temple itself (necessitating a makeshift stretcher and pully rescue attempt) director Carter Smith wrings out drippings of fear from this short excursion into the dark, where not every sound can be trusted.
Yet the promising ‘creature feature’ elements are underused and, as already mentioned, the gaps in between are not filled with enough character tension.
The last 20 minutes descent into gore – with impromptu surgery no less – successfully bubbles up some chunky disgust.
I can’t help feel though that the appearance of blood, bone, and sinew was a get-out clause to fall back on in the absence of better material.
The Ruins is a short and simple movie that has little to make it grow on you. Set out with map in hand for some predictable nastiness of an evening, by all means, but there is nothing here that will take root.
Words by Mike Record