“Four Americans on vacation just don’t disappear!” says one of the characters in this film’s first half. Haven’t seen a movie then mate? Only happens in very second horror flick of the last twenty years.
So begins, The Ruins…
The basic premise of The Ruins is such a reach that I feel guilty appreciating even some of the more tense moments that the solid handling of such silly subject matter generates. Maybe it has more impact upon me – a long time loather of all things salad – but the more you think about what this film suggests you fear, the funnier it becomes.
Our usual few attractive American young people are enjoying their familiar overseas trip of a lifetime. When basking by the pool eventually becomes boring – how? – they accept an invitation from a German tourist to visit an unexplored Mayan ruin. So like, yay to that.
The ruin is well off the beaten path smack dab in the midst of unforgiving terrain. The locals either disavow all knowledge or blatantly warn them away from the temple. But if there’s anything that this modern age has taught us it is that young people don’t quit and have an incredible ability to maintain focus and concentration… well these guys and gals do, while others with low attention spans and a fierce unwillingness to exhibit any form of effort stay alive and comfortable on their ratty sofas.
The ruins are indeed an awe inspiring sight, even when coated with stringy vines and surrounded by shrubbery, they stand resplendent in the afternoon light. But before the travellers can ascend to the top, new ‘even more’ locals rush from the jungle’s edge to deliver familiar, but even more forceful, warnings to leave this site alone. Unfortunately these statements fall on deaf ears, or at least ears that don’t understand the local dialogue, regardless of the volume of delivery.
The foreigners find themselves at the peak of the temple structure while the menacing locals make a perimeter at the bottom, hovering with intent as night falls.
As our ‘heroes’ of sorts discuss their predicament and what awaits them downstairs, it quickly becomes evident that a new threat exists, and that they aren’t the first to stand atop the temple. While the source of the new threat is obvious, it is less clear where the scares will come.
The answer is in the sincerity and care taken in crafting what should be laughable setpieces and sequences. The cast, while faceless and unmemorable, are actually normal people and act as such. There is no mindless boasting or stupid dialogue, at least not when it isn’t warranted. They bicker, tease and talk rubbish, but not to the extent that you wonder why random bystanders don’t feel the urge to wander up and punch them in the face.
They also take this stuff seriously, but that doesn’t really mean you should.
The Ruins is a prime example of when putting makeup on a pig can occasionally fool you for a brief period. None of this should work at any level beyond ‘unintentional comedy’, but somehow they carry it off.
You might not need to eat your greens kids, but you should respect them.
Final Rating – 6.7 / 10. While I cannot endorse the subject matter, The Ruins is far better than it should be, and a pioneer in a horror genre that I hope never again returns.