THE RUINS

Sometimes you have to wonder if the characters in horror movies have ever actually seen a horror movie.

The Ruins, directed by Carter Smith, is a new horror movie with such characters. The film is based on a book of the same name by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay.

While vacationing in Mexico, four American friends—Amy and Stacy and their boyfriends Jeff and Eric—and two European tourists decide to explore the ruins of an ancient Mayan pyramid that’s not on the map. Mathias, a German tourist, tells the group that his brother went off to these ruins a few days earlier with a hot archaeologist babe, but hasn’t been back since.

For some reason, horror movies often seem to start out happy and bright and fun. Maybe this is to make a comparison for how horrible things are eventually going to become. The Ruins spends a lot of time at the beginning showing off the two girls in bikinis and people partying on the beach. It takes an unusually long time for everyone to get off their lazy behinds and actually go to the titular ruins.

When they do get to the ruins—after ignoring the traditional copious warnings of impending doom—they are suddenly confronted by a (presumably) Mayan man on horseback, who yells and gestures frantically that they should leave. In true horror movie fashion, the young people decide not to listen to him, or to the other Mayans who show up as backup.

When Amy steps back from the confrontation to take a picture, she accidentally steps on a strange flowering vine-like plant that is covering much of the pyramid.

At once the Mayans seem to change their minds about telling the kids to leave, and they force them to stay close to the ruins. One of the Europeans steps forward and is immediately killed by one of the Mayan bowmen.

The kids then climb to the top of the pyramid, where they find some empty tents and some camping and archaeology stuff laying about.

There’s no sign of anyone, but there’s a hole in the middle of the top of the ruins that leads to the inside of the pyramid. They hear what sounds like a cell phone ringing from inside the pyramid, so they use the windlass over the hole to lower Mathias down. They find that the inside of the temple is also covered with the strange leafy vine.

The Mayans camp out around the pyramid, patrolling it 24/7 with guards armed with bows and arrows and guns, ready to kill anyone trying to make a break for it.

Eventually the kids discover that the strange vine that covers most of the ruins is some kind of freaky, super-intelligent, carnivorous plant that eats people, and that the Mayans are refusing to let them leave because they have “contaminated” themselves by touching it.

Stranded at the top of the pyramid in the middle of the Mexican jungle, they must try to survive both the man-eating plant and each other until help arrives.

The Ruins is a horror movie that prefers suspense and terror to blood and gore and people chasing other people with chainsaws. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely blood and gore in The Ruins—it’s just not the main event.

All of the actors do a respectable job in their roles, especially Joe Anderson as Mathias. Still, don’t expect any Oscar-worthy performances, seeing as most of the characters clearly fit in the traditional horror movie roles (i.e., one blonde, one brunette and their boyfriends).

The special effects in The Ruins are quite impressive. Unfortunately for the squeamish, many of these effects involve blood and flesh and a scary vine that eats people.

There are a lot of little things in this movie that are annoying and don’t make sense. For instance, even though the girls knew that they were going to hike around the ruins of an old pyramid, they decide to wear flip-flops. Also, Amy recovers from a monster hangover in about five minutes.

While The Ruins isn’t going to get the attention of critics for being a moving and artistic vision of man’s struggle against nature, it does pretty well on its pure entertainment value.

Don’t look for any deeper meaning though, lest you be disappointed. If you like horror movies, you’ll definitely want to check out The Ruins. Even if you’re not crazy about horror movies (like me), I’d still recommend seeing it. Just be prepared afterward to distrust your houseplants.