Directed by: Carter Smith
Starring: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson
When I saw the trailer for The Ruins, I thought this thriller about an ostensibly spectacularly nasty ringworm infestation looked pretty darn silly. Then I saw the movie. Not having read the source novel, I had no way of knowing that the trailer was pulling a Primeval (2007). “Pulling a Primeval” means, “Ain’t no way in hell we’re going to let you know this movie’s about an overgrown crocodile on the rampage, so we’ve made it look like something else.”
In the case of The Ruins, there’s no crocodile (though there is a crock of something), but rather an ancient Mayan pyramid the trailer ominously assures us “was once a place of sacrifice” … and perhaps still is. Balder and dash, even poppy and cock. Then we get glimpses—looking nothing like what we see in the final movie—of what appear to be worms or tiny snakes going after the standard assortment of dumb tourists who’ve never seen a horror movie. OK, so there are the standard assortment of dumb tourists who’ve never seen a horror movie to be found in the actual film, but we’re not dealing with worms, nor snakes, nor human sacrifice. Oh, if only we were.
Instead, the movie delivers a king-size man-eating vine. That’s right, folks, it’s the return of the giant-vegetable-fear film. It’s Little Pyramid of Horrors—minus catchy tunes. Well, in all fairness, the flowers on this kudzu of Satan do vibrate and make noises various and sundry that often sound a lot like the little singing Japanese girls in need of a lyricist found in the Mothra movies.
Now, you may be thinking this will lead to campy fun, and there was certainly a possibility for that (“There’s something in the shrubbery! Oh my God, it is the shrubbery!”). However, The Ruins takes its horticultural horrors very seriously. To make matters worse, this serious attitude manifests itself in loading the movie down with images—amputations, operations, self-mutilations—that aren’t so much scary as they are merely unpleasant. But since a good deal of the carnage is inflicted on the character played by Laura Ramsey—who entered the movies via The Real Cancun (2003), and then proceeded to land in such gems as Lords of Dogtown (2005), Venom (2005), She’s the Man (2006) and The Covenant (2006)—there’s an inescapable sense of “serves you right” to it all.
If anyone still cares, the story—which takes forever to get started—concerns four American tourists in Mexico. We have couples Jeff (Jonathan Tucker, In the Valley of Elah) and Amy (Jena Malone, Into the Wild) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore, X-Men) and Stacy (the aforementioned Laura Ramsey). They have the misfortune of meeting up with a German tourist, Mathias (Joe Anderson, Across the Universe), who opts to take them along on an expedition to a little-known Mayan pyramid that just happens to be within easy distance of their four-star resort. After much footage is eaten up to no real point on these folks drinking and carousing, said expedition gets underway—despite the warnings of a jungle taxi driver (easily overcome by paying him 20 bucks) doing a “south of the border” version of the superstitious Hungarian peasants in a Dracula movie.
No sooner do they arrive at the pyramid than Mayans show up and try to shoo them off, but since our heroes have already encountered Lucifer’s wisteria, the Mayans take to shooting them to make sure the hapless group doesn’t leave the pyramid. Mayhem ensues—as does a degree of unintentional mirth (catch the sound effects as the ladies try to hoist the injured Mathias onto a stretcher) and a walloping dose of the merely tedious.
A bottle of Roundup would be worth a lot of money in this particular locale. Too bad there’s no equivalent product for use on movies like this. Rated R for strong violence and gruesome images, language, some sexuality and nudity.