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Movie Review: The Ruins

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The Ruins is an isolate-and-kill horror movie, based on an allegedly thick and depressing novel (unread by me). The ending has been fiddled with, so it does not match the one in print and on the DVD there is yet another alternate ending – though mostly just extended. But it is not so much what happens at the end of the movie that interests me, it's more what happened before the movie even started, since that is still unclear to me (see SPOILERS section down below).

A group of six tourists veer off the beaten path while in Mexico, to visit a Mayan temple. There are two American couples, a Greek and a German who is looking for his brother. As you might guess, some or all of these will end up being toast. When they get to the temple, they are accosted by a man who shouts things at them in a language they don't understand. The man's friends show up and before long, the tourists are driven up the side of the temple, which is now surrounded. Their captives stay away from the structure however. The tourists are not allowed to leave, but they are unsure why. Things take a creepier turn for them as dead bodies are found and ring-tones are not what they seem. Their original, bold assertion that American tourists couldn't possibly just go missing without anybody looking for them, gets weakened as they spend a couple of days and nights on the top of the temple. Some of the group start to fall by the wayside.

The Ruins is not for the squeamish; there is some graphic bloodletting, which looks fairly realistic. The actors play it believable enough for you to want to look away. The slowly building despair and exhaustion are also brought across pretty well, making you feel for the characters, even if they are a bit bland and sometimes make really stupid decisions. The ultimate Evil that is propelling the plot, stays a little ill-defined, but manages to make your skin crawl, even as it borders on being laughably silly. All in all it is a capably done genre-movie that will keep you entertained and grossed out for 90 minutes, even though a fair amount of logical loopholes will not go unnoticed.

Given the explanation for what is going on, why don't the people surrounding the temple just shoot the tourists once they have decided they can't leave? And with regards to containment: what about the spores, which seem to be spreading by air as well? The isolation of the temple is by no means airtight. If the plants are truly that virulent, they would also be spreading further by ground, not stopped by a small strip of salt. Why is the vegetation not actively attacking the tourists up top but waiting until they are (almost) dead? And how did this form of greenery end up isolated within this temple? No explanation is given, and I could not come up with a plausible one. How the plants became intelligent is also not explained, but that's probably a good thing, as any explanation would probably end up being very silly.

The Ruins, 2008. 93 min. Director: Carter Smith. Starring: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey.

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About Steven van Lijnden

  • jake

    Malcolm remember when the two girls went in to find the cell phone? The plants sucked up the girls fire that is why they can’t burn.

  • Porsche

    I also thought that burning the plants would somehow release dangerous particles into the air, and would eventually be spread & consumed through smoke inhalation and is the reason that they weren’t burned.

    There was also a scene where the two women were exploring the ruins with torches. Although the girls did not show intentions of burning the plants, the plants certainly did not appear phased by the torches, and at one point, they grabbed and extinguished them.

    Why didn’t the villagers kill the tourists once on the ruins instead of letting them die this horrific death?

    I, too imagined that they did not wish death upon the tourists, but once they were infected, better to leave them for the feeding as opposed to making the vines angry, possibly causing them to feed on the villagers. After all, the plants had developed a form of intelligence, unbeknownst to us.

    Why did the plants isolate themselves to the one area and not spread into the rest of the world?

    Why should they? Civilization was nearly primitive there – which means there would be a lesser chance that some technologically advanced genius would find the antidote for the man-eating vine! I couldn’t imagine this beast lurking and growing near Johns Hopkins Univ. It wouldn’t stand a chance. But when you’re dealing with only nuts, berries, dirty water, and bows & arrows…..well….

    Overall I LOVED the movie. Watched it 2X back to back.

  • Any plant that spreads as fungus growing on people would have an airborne element to it I think, but I am no botanist. I did not get that Ritual Sacrifice vibe off the Villagers, more a ‘You touched it and now you are tainted and must die!’ vibe. But maybe it was indeed intended as a Holy thing and was not brought across clearly, as your theorem would get rid of some inconsistensies. Probably it is explained better in the book, which – alas – I will never read.

  • “Given the explanation for what is going on, why don’t the people surrounding the temple just shoot the tourists once they have decided they can’t leave?”

    Ritual sacrifice. The plants need live meals or they’ll eat the villagers.

    “And how did this form of greenery end up isolated within this temple?”

    Ancient ruins in a movie. Thousands of years of making sure the plants stayed put. How did the plants actually grow? That’s left to the audience.

    “what about the spores, which seem to be spreading by air as well?”

    Didn’t get any indication that was happening.

    “And of course, why didn’t the locals just burn the plants?”

    Villagers/locals obviously believe it’s a legend. Could they? Sure. Do they want to? No.

    This is a movie in the style of the recent War of the Worlds remake and Cloverfield. You get no explanation because the characters don’t understand. Anything the group said would purely be a guess, not fact. Why bother adding a scene like that into a script which only gives more fuel to say “how did they know how the plants got there?”

  • Your 12 year old brings up a good point Malcolm – maybe they were afraid burning it would release particles that might allow it to spread? (stretching here) Also, how did they know the plants were so dangerous unless there was some kind of massive outbreak at an earlier point? And how did they manage to contain it?

  • Derek Fleek

    I laughed. That’s for sure.

  • Malcolm

    And of course, why didn’t the locals just burn the plants?

    Starting at the bottom and on each side, with a progressively smaller area as they ascend.

    Then at the top, a couple of barrels of oil/petrol thrown down the hole followed by something to light it all, and BOOM – all gone.

    My 12yo son suggested this half-way through the movie.