Written by Hombre Divertido
One of the challenges of viewing films on DVD can often be the bonus features. Thus is the case with The Ruins, released in an unrated version on DVD July 8th.
The bonus features include documentaries on the making of the film and the special effects, deleted scenes, and more. In the documentary you get great insight into what the producers (Ben Stiller, Trish Hofmann, Gary Barber), writer (Scott B. Smith), director (Carter Smith), cast, etc. were striving for. This only makes it more disappointing when viewing the final result.
Based on the novel by the same name, The Ruins tracks a small group of vacationers in Cancun who decide to take a day trip to some off the beaten path Mayan ruins. Upon arriving the group is met by some hostile locals who first insist that the tourists leave, and then insist that they not only stay, but that they ascend to the plateau of said ruins. The motivation of the locals seems a bit unclear, but those watching closely will understand the transition. The same cannot be said for other subtle plot points.
Eventually it becomes clear that our cast is not only at the mercy of the hostile natives, but also the vile vines that engulf the ruins. Said fiendish foliage has apparently killed and consumed other visitors to the ruins and has its lecherous leaves set on our heroes. The pain-inducing plants begin to grow on our trapped tourists, and in them as well.
The problem here is that what should be an intense film plays out more as a collection of scenes. The lack of continuity in this ninety-minute attempt at a thriller makes it difficult to appreciate, as the soon-to-be-flora-food friends attempt to survive and devise a way out of this situation, and begin to turn on each other and themselves.
The performances are fairly one-dimensional, and it appears that the director opts for gore in an attempt to glean a reaction from an audience that should be more drawn in by the physiological aspects of the situations. The gore is some of the best seen in cinema, but it falls flat without fear-inducing scenarios.
At certain points of the film the audience will find itself laughing at what should be scary, and wondering if producer Ben Stiller had that in mind all along.
Recommendation: As a classic horror film, the editing and lack of a truly scary antagonist keeps The Ruins from succeeding. There is more potential here for a psychological thriller based on the characters dealing with the situation, but the motivations become too muddled, the decisions are too far fetched, and the situations are not given enough time to play out properly. The bonus material is more entertaining than the film itself, and the deleted scenes actually contain a far superior ending. Worth renting for the true fans of gore and the special effects that go with that genre, but just not scary enough for the rest of us.