02 November 2015

THE RUINS/2008


Produced by Ben Stiller and filmed in Australia on a low budget of $8,000,000 (well, that is low by today’s standards) this well paced little film based on a book by Scott B. Smith, while not without the usual faults that plague most horror movies, is entertaining enough to recommend. I am not very familiar with the faces of the cast for the most part but they did all a good job. Over all the film is well acted and directed and the only real issue with the film, for me, was with the “creature” the group of curious hikers must face: killer weeds. I just have always had an issue with plants being scary. They usually are not and in this movie rather than have the entire focus center on some sort of walking plant monster the tension stays chiefly focused on the group of friends who find themselves trapped on top of an ancient Mayan pyramid with no escape from the elements or their gun-totting captors.


A group of American college students (okay, it is a tried and tested to death formula but else would we expect, middle aged Shriners?) are vacationing in southern Mexico and decide to accompany their new found friend from Germany, Mathias, on a small trip to locate his brother who is on an archeological dig in some desolate Mayan ruins. They follow the directions scrawled out on a hand drawn map and when the group, along with a young Greek man who is searching for his friends as well, arrive they are confronted by angry local Mayans. There are communications problems and the Greek kid is shot first with an arrow to the chest then gets a bullet to his skull. The group quickly flee up to the top of the pyramid and there find an abandoned archeological camp. The villagers surround the base of the temple and seem to just be waiting and certainly are going to allow the group to leave alive.The panicky youths cannot get a cell phone signal but soon begin to hear a cell phone ringing from inside a shaft that leads down into the temple. In desperation Mathias, claiming it is his brother’s phone, descends. A little later he is lying on the temple floor with a broken back and when one of the girls, Stacy (the very cute Laura Ramsey), descends to help him she herself is injured when she falls and punctures her leg.


They eventually remove the Mathias and when the two females descend yet again into the shaft to find the cell phone they find not only a dead girl but also that the cell phone ring tone is being mimicked by the vines in the dungeon like chamber from which they barely escape. The tension gets worse now as the Mathias’ legs are infested with the vines and they burrow down to his marrow. Stacy has issues as well when the vines appear to be crawling throughout her body. Med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) amputates Matias' legs using a rock and hunting knife. The scene is pretty effective. Later Stacy is found delirious, trying to cut the vines out of her body and when they others try to help her she cuts Jeff's hand and stabs her boyfriend Eric (Shawn Ashmore) in the chest.


Unfortunately we are left with the standard modern horror movie ending really where the last survivor, Jeff’s girl friend Amy (Jena Malone) almost escapes but feels the vines squirming around her eye as she is driving away in a jeep. So no one survives and as the film fades the Greek guy's friends come walking up to the temple looking for him. Get it? The cycle continues. I just knew that was going to happen too. Anyway, there as no big surprises, or no surprises at all, except that the acting and dialog is great and the scenes are well shot. There is enough gore and violence to give the film some life and yet it is not overdone. Again, what can you really do with plants as the thing that is pursuing you? And maybe more could have been done really. The plants are never scary and even seem to remain on the sideline of the story. The real threats seem to be the Mayan villagers and the scorching sun and lack of water. I think if the malevolent plants had been on screen more and ripped someone limb from limb it would have been more exciting, but I can still recommend this one.


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