Four young American tourists are vacationing in Cancun when they befriend a stranger from Germany. His brother, an archeologist, is missing, and he’s set to visit some Mayan ruins to track him down. Thinking it will be fun, the Americans decide to tag along, which quickly backfires. It isn’t long before they find themselves trapped atop the Mayan pyramid with a hidden danger lurking in the darkness.
“The Ruins” is one part horror and one part adventurous thriller. Its source material, the 2006 bestseller by Scott Smith, was hailed by Stephen King as the “best horror novel of the new century.” However, most of the thrills must have gotten lost in translation because the movie itself is never overtly frightening. Smith, who also wrote the screenplay, unsuccessfully relies on several gruesomely performed surgeries to do the trick instead.
At least the characters and acting are better than much of its horror brethren, such as the abysmal remakes of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Halloween.” It also deserves mentioning that it tries to use the characters to explore the darker side of human nature and what people are capable of when survival instincts are pushed to the brink. Unfortunately, “Lord Of The Flies” it is not, and any insightful commentary is pushed aside.
Instead of mankind, the real villain of the story becomes killer, flesh-craving vines. That’s right – vines. Think Poison Ivy from Batman, but on steroids. It’s a ludicrous idea that might have sounded foreboding in print but is far from chilling on screen. Let’s face it – plants just don’t emit the sort of primal fear a movie like this needs. The natives keeping the Americans at bay are a more interesting bunch, but they aren’t explained or developed. I guess we should simply be thankful the story isn’t about another psychopathic serial killer or some weird creatures in a dark cave.
In the end, one major thing was overlooked throughout the entire film, which made no sense at all – fire. If you’re surrounded by man-eating vines, why not light a huge bonfire and burn them all down? Instead of trying to keep the plants contained, it’s baffling the natives haven’t already taken a blow torch to the pyramid in the first place. No more vines. Problem solved. Then again, if the characters were that smart, I guess we wouldn’t have a movie in the first place, would we?