That state of the modern horror film in America is not a good one. More often than not we get remakes of Asian horror films (three already this year: One Missed Call, The Eye, Shutter). When we do get an original film they generally pander to the PG-13 crowd (the rating is not bad in itself, but there needs to be some effort made); the resulting films include the likes of The Reaping and Blood & Chocolate.
This is not to say we don't get R-rated horror, but even then there is not much to like; witness Turistas and Primeval. As you can tell, that is not a good track record. So, when I see a trailer like that for The Ruins, please forgive me for not getting all that excited. For all I could tell, it looked like a sequel to Turistas, just what we all need. Still, being the horror fan that I am, I felt obligated to bite the proverbial bullet and hope for the best.
Fortunately, the horror landscape is not entirely bleak. We will occasionally get excellence in the form of The Descent, 28 Weeks Later, The Mist, and Mulberry Street. Now, you can add The Ruins to the list. It is far from perfect, but what it does, it does well, and while it may retain some of the usual horror cliches, it gives them enough of a tweak to make them feel fresh. This is also a case of advertising not doing the film any favors. I will admit that The Ruins is a tough sell, but the trailers and commercials could not make it look any more generic. Rest assured, it is not. In fact, the film is a rather grueling journey into survival horror that, while hard to believe, is definitely within the realm of possibility.
The movie opens in a fashion similar to Turistas, with a group of young adults vacationing in an exotic location. Frolicking on the beach, drinking, and general stupid behavior. Can you blame them? In their shoes, you or I would probably be doing the same thing. You're on vacation! Have some fun, drink, party, and carry on like fools! During their fun, they meet another tourist to this Mexican resort, a German named Mathias (Across the Universe's Joe Anderson), who is planning a trip to an ancient Mayan temple to meet his brother, who ran off with an archaeologist. Liking the idea of some historical ruins that are not a tourist trap, the four decide to join him on the trip. This is where their fates will forever be changed.