Directed by: Carter Smith
Premise: A group of tourists travel to a pyramid in Latin America and find themselves trapped between flesh eating foliage growing on the side of the building and locals who are willing to kill the tourists in order to contain the man-eating plant life.
What Works: Despite what is a fairly stupid premise, The Ruins manages to pull it off and present some original components into what is, at bottom, a familiar formula. The use of sound in the film is impressive and the threatening plant life manages to look (mostly) convincing. Although the characters are rather flat, the acting is solid and the story makes the tourists real, as opposed to the stupid young people who usually populate these kinds of films. The characters have some nice moments together early on, especially those played by actors Jena Malone and Jonathan Tucker.
What Doesn’t: The Ruins takes of a lot from films like The Descent and Cabin Fever but this film has trouble creating and maintaining an atmosphere of dread. It is not shot particularly well, which is critical to establish mood in a film like this, and as the plot enters into the second act it goes flat rather than raising the stakes. The climax comes about suddenly with nothing leading into it and is a let down. When the film goes for gross out scares it does not commit to it, as though the film is determined to distance itself from the extreme gore of recent horror pictures like Saw. The result is a compromised film that hasn’t got enough character to be a compelling drama and doesn’t have enough splatter to be guilty pleasure.
Bottom Line: The Ruins is just an average film. Despite some unique ideas, the movie lacks the interesting characters and classy cinematography of The Descent or the sense of fun of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. Its unwillingness to commit to either route or carve its own niche keeps it stuck in a generic mode.
Episode: #187 (April 27, 2008)