DVD Review: The Ruins (Unrated Edition)
By Jeff Swindoll Jul 8, 2008, 11:31 GMT
When a group of tight-knit college friends visit the site of an undisturbed Mayan ruin, they stumble into an ancient trap where an unspoken evil is waiting to drag its victims into an endless nightmare. As fear and paranoia eat away at their sanity, their only chance at escape is to commit the unthinkable. ...more
“Four Americans on vacation don't just disappear!”
Some American tourists go to see a Mayan temple that’s off the beaten path, and discover just why no one has ever heard of the ruins.
Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), Amy (Jena Malone), Eric (Shawn Ashmore), and Stacy (Laura Ramsey) are two American couples vacationing south of the border.
They meet German tourist Mathias (Joe Anderson) on a night of drunken partying on the beach. The next day Mathias proposes that the two couples accompany him to some ruins that his brother is exploring on an archeological dig.
They agree and along with Greek tourist Dimitri (Dimitri Baveas) they set out for the isolated dig. When they get there they find that something terrible has happened to the dig party and the villagers around the area force them at gunpoint to stay on the temple ruins – thanks to Amy accidently touching some local plant life growing all over the temple.
If you’ve not guessed from the box art, The Ruins is about a carnivorous plant that holds sway on the aforementioned ruins. Our poor tourists get stuck on the vine covered Mayan temple that the natives, in hopes of keeping the vicious vine in one area, have salted the ground around it. They hold the tourist at gunpoint once they’ve been exposed to the loco weed.
What amused me is that the vine is intelligent and appears to be turning their isolated human prey against each other. It has learned to mimic human speech and other noises, but I kept expecting the critters to burst into song - ala Little Shop of Horrors. That tended to take the scare out of things for me.
It also didn’t help that some of the actors tended to grate upon me – Jena Malone specifically. The sense of isolation and the kids slowly being broken down by that isolation played well though.
The natives having the harrowing task of shooting anyone who tried to get off the ruins also added tension to the film. The natives seem just as nasty as the plants in this aspect - although you come to understand why they’d not want this species of plant to get out of hand.
When not expecting them to burst into song, the vines can be somewhat creepy. Especially when they creep up on you and you awaken to find that they’ve burrowed under your skin.
All in all I thought that the Ruins scored more when it explored the desperation and horror of the characters than when dealing with the vines of doom. The ending is much of a downer so I have to give it credit for that instead of making one more suitable for a Hollywood film (although the alternative ending that possibly leads to a sequel is more in that mold).
The Ruins is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Special features include a commentary by director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt. The 14 minute “Making of the Ruins” chronicles the genesis of the film. The 15-minute “Creeping Death” shows how they created the devilish vines.
The 6-minute “Building the Ruins” shows how they constructed the temple set. Next are 12 minutes of deleted scenes with an optional commentary by director Smith. Finally you have the 75-second theatrical trailer and previews of other Dreamworks DVDs.
The Ruins isn’t exactly a ruined horror film, but the horror comes more from the character’s predicaments than the not-so-scary vegetation that surrounds the temple. It has its moments, but I’d say that it was far from classic.