The Ruins (2008) USA GER AUS / R / 90 min / 5.9 IMDB / IMDB rank 2,768
By Roger Malcolm / Oct. 2012
Terror resides down in Mexico, deep in the jungle inside the ruins of a Mayan archeological site. Carter Smith directs his first feature film, based on the novel by Scott B. Smith, who also adapted it to a screenplay. Ben Stiller, a friend of Scott, is credited with an executive producer role.
The story follows 4 students vacationing in Mexico. The two American couples meet a German also on holiday who has not seen his fellow countryman. He says the last time he saw him was when he left with a female archeologist to see an old Mayan ruin. He asks them all if they would like to join him on his way to find his friend. They agree to leave in the morning, only after partying all night on the beach one of the girls doesn’t want to go. Her boyfriend tells her “people come from all over the world just to see these ruins” and he “ain’t taking her to some tourist trap”. He persists even more by using his sweet romantic side, finally convincing her to go.
Immediately, the Mexican taxi driver refuses to take them to their destination, declaring “This place. No good.” Though after a bribe of twenty dollars, the cabbie agrees, delivering them out in the middle of nowhere with abandoned vehicles. They track through the jungle coming to a river bed where the path seems to end. They spot two young girls standing high up on the river bed watching them. Stacy calls out “Hola!”, yet the girls run off. Eventually their guide discovers the path after removing foliage which was hiding the area. The guys end up having to convince the girls to continue after they become suspicious of the path being hidden.
They arrive at the bottom a Mayan pyramid covered in vines and leaves. Suddenly out of the jungle comes a rider on horseback. He dismounts, and with the horse running off into the jungle, begins screaming misunderstood commands at the tourists. Amy snaps a photograph of them, causing the situation to intensify. Fearing they want the footage, their guide walks to Amy, stepping on the leaves of the pyramid as she does, and retrieves the camera. The rider is then joined by two armed men. Chaos ensues as the guide approaches to offer the camera to the rider. But as an arrow sinks into the left side of his chest, it silences the situation. But only for a brief moment, however, as a gun fires, killing him with a shot to the head. Abandoning the dead guide, they all retreat up the pyramid in compliance. Left high up in the sun to die without food or water, they attempt every possible chance at survival, as the locals set up camp around the pyramid, preventing them from escaping.
Jena Malone stars in her first and only horror film of her career as Amy. Starting in 1996 at the age of ten, Malone, now 27 years of age, has a plethora of roles that challenges any actress’ career. At the age of fourteen, she declined a role in the sure-to be box-office-hit Air Force One to pursue roles that were of more interest to her. After over 40 roles in film and television, including more recently Sucker Punch and Hatfields & McCoys, Malone is set to appear in what might perhaps be her biggest spotlight yet, as Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).
The film’s mystery builds with expertly-paced suspense as the horrors revealed become more gruesome. The characters all seem to pull together for survival amongst all conflict while demonstrating their intelligence and democratic process. The madness escalates, causing characters to make decisions deriving from their usual behaviour and spiraling out of control.
The Ruins is a horror film with a fine mixture of suspense and gore, an ending different depending on the version viewed and an excellent song by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs for the credits titled “Phenomena”. I loved the ending of the unrated version and only wish they had included a particular deleted scene as well.
Best Death: After becoming infected with the vine, Stacy starts panicking, saying she can feel it crawling around inside of her. Her friends dismiss it as non-sense at first, with Jeff eventually agreeing to slice her open to remove them. Jeff slices into her, finding and removing multiple vines. She tells them she can feel more crawling around inside of her head, but they reassure her they are all gone, ignoring the vine that moves visibly underneath her skin. Her friends later discover her outside carving into herself trying to locate more vines. They only create more chaos as they try to stop her. Eventually, Stacy collapses on the ground, pleading for Amy to kill her, and we see Jeff walk up with a knife in his hand. The camera cuts to the bottom of the pyramid showing original man on horseback, where we hear Stacy’s screams silenced.
Best Scene: After seeming to give her boyfriend a handjob in the middle of a bad situation, Stacy wakes up and throws back the blanket to reveal a vine has twisted itself around her leg, entering into a bad gash on her knee. We see it removed as her friend pulls it painfully out of her wound. Only, unbeknownst to everyone, the vines have wrapped themselves around the German’s legs as well, causing excessive bleeding. Jeff, being in med school, doesn’t hesitate to apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. He comes to the conclusion the legs will need to be amputated for his survival. Only they must break the bones in his legs first, then use a knife to slice through the rest. They place a leather strap in the German’s mouth, even though he isn’t suppose to have any feeling below his waist from breaking his back, then smash a large rock on the bone. The German screams, but Jeff continues to cut both legs off and use a hot frying pan to cauterize the wounds. The gore intensifies into a gut-wrenching scene of unbearable visualization.