The Ruins

Image for The Ruins

On their last day holidaying in Mexico, four college kids accept an offer they should refuse: a gonzo trip to an off-the-map Mayan temple. Once they arrive, the locals take offence and they find themselves trapped on the temple’s roof at the mercy of supe


Maybe the BBFC should give up all this ratings business and pass the buck over to the IMDb’s Keywords, that handy user manual famed for condensing a movie’s content to its most notorious moments. This, for instance, is how The Ruins stacks up: Severed Leg, Stabbed In The Chest, Shot To Death, Stabbed To Death, Vomit Scene, Urination Scene, Tequila, Gore, Survival, Nudity, Man-Eating Plants... And the really great thing is, not only does it serve as a handy viewer’s guide; in this case, it practically doubles as the script. Adapted from his own bestseller by Scott B. Smith, The Ru... It’s no use, is it? Man-Eating Plants. Yes, there are, and yes, they do. It’s not often you see a film brave enough to take on a B-movie honker like carnivorous foliage but, to director Carter Smith’s credit, the hokey threat is presented as a surprisingly tangible one. Admittedly, the homicidal ivy looks about as scary as a poorly maintained allotment, but its impact and actions feed well into some deep-rooted contamination fears (this is, after all, a paranoid tale of Americans abroad).

Absurd as they sound (and believe us, they do literally sound absurd), they’re actually the film’s strongsuit - but don’t go expecting a Triffid-sized creature-feature blowout. Right down to its sap, The Ruins is a traditional group jeopardy pic - so traditional, in fact, that it plays like a tropical Night Of The Living Dead: y’know, stranded in a strange place, surrounded by a murderous force, figuring a way out, then disintegrating under pressure... No problem with the steal - it’s a classic suspense scenario - but for the dynamic to work you need a strong cast of characters, and The Ruins settles for hollow story-server types. Tucker is Mr. Logic, Ashmore Mr. Exposition, Ramsey Ms. Panic... Only Malone escapes the cookie-cutter and really comes alive.

Still, “terror has evolved” says the tagline, which is hopelessly optimistic if not asking for a brisk wrist-slap from Trading Standards. There’s nothing even remotely progressive about Smith’s film, towing the innards of so many US horrors by aiming for ‘eughs’ rather than ‘agghs’. Explicit surgical strikes of body horror, of which there are plenty, are fine for a brief, blunt shock. But they’re no match for a lasting chill, and any scares fade with the credits.

Slick, sick stuff, but save the odd squirm, a killer-plant horror that doesn’t grow anywhere.