Carter Smith’s The Ruins is a horror movie that will make you squirm in your seat much like Event Horizon did with atmosphere and Hard Candy did with suggestion. The Ruins, adapted from Scott Smith’s novel of the same name, starts out as your ordinary horror movie but with enough forethought to actually give the viewer some time to get to know the film’s protagonists, much like the first act of Wolf Creek.
A few salacious body shots, a wink to the horror buff that The Ruins is following the slasher/horror regulations established in the 1980s (blood, guts and t&a) and we are off to the Mayan ruins. This is where the horror movie aspect of The Ruins kicks into gear, a film section housing originality, brutality and gore galore. I don’t want to ruin (no pun intended) who, what or where the eventual antagonist(s) in The Ruins comes from. That is what separates this film from regular horror movies. I will say that when certain attacks come, they will make your skin crawl. These instances and the unexpected, the things not advertised in The Ruins’ commercials and trailers, the issues and scenarios broached in the book that were transferred into this film, are what makes The Ruins an above-average horror movie.
The acting and the performances delivered during The Ruins’ runtime are also what keep this film from receiving a below average rating. Of note are American tourists Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), an aspiring medical student, his girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone), Amy’s bff Stacy (Laura Ramsey) and Dimitri (Dimitri Baveas), a German tourist the group meets while vacationing in Mexico. What these four characters endure, do and have to deal with gets more and more extreme and even-though the characters are two dimensional, you feel sorry for them and their predicament. They are truly in a real world nightmare that there is no waking up from.
All of these high points for The Ruins do not negate its low points: surface character depth, archetypical characters and a standard Hollywood ending. I knew the first two would most likely be the case but I was hoping for a more substantive ending, something with more punch. Carter Smith’s The Ruins is a movie that seemed to have everything going for it: a novel written by the person that gave us A Perfect Plan, source material that could be drawn upon for script enhancement and enrichment, Donnie Darko’s girlfriend as a cast member, good supporting talent, an innovative antagonist with nifty abilities and a good advertisement campaign capped by a highly entertaining trailer. When you sit down to watch The Ruins however, you find that the final product has been affected by Hollywood focus groups, story alterations and an eventful but ultimately lackluster third act. I had high hopes for The Ruins. Some of those hopes were met, others were not.