The Ruins Ruined A Perfectly Good Hour And A Half

I saw this movie about a group of college-aged Americans on vacation in a remote foreign locale who meet some Europeans who are also vacationing and some of these people are killed by an evil entity this is protected and/or fueled by the locals. Did I see A) Turistas, B) Hostel, C) Hostel Part II, D) The Ruins, or E) some other generic horror movie that follows the same formula. If you’ve been following since the title, you probably guessed The Ruins. And I’d say you’re probably right, but I can’t say for sure since these movies all kind of blend together into a haze of blood, stupidity, and vivisection.

the-ruins-templeWhat sets The Ruins apart from the other similarly plotted movies is that the evil entity is a malevolent, bloodthirsty plant, presumably giving it a timely ecological angle, but in reality the only ecological angle is that the evil plant is in fact part of the ecosystem. There’s no supposition that the plant was caused by careless pollution or environmental recklessness. In fact the impression is that the plant has been around a long time, so any parallels drawn to current causes of protecting the environment are baseless.

The story involves the aforementioned Americans (Jeff and Amy, Eric and Stacy) vacationing Cancun, Mexico. These Americans instantly befriend a German (who sports an ungodly, fake German accent) named Mathias and agree to venture off into the jungle with him and his Greek friend Dimitri in search of some Mayan ruins his brother visited but never returned from. I’m not sure about these kids, but my parents explicitly warned me about following random Europeans into Mexican jungles to find places not on any map from which other people have failed to return. It just usually leads to bad situations.

Once this ragtag, and still hungover, group gets to a town near their destination, they’re rebuffed by a cab driver who refuses to take them to the “bad place.” But money solves all problems and $40 changes his mind. The taxi drops the kids off out in the middle of nowhere (about 10 miles from the resort) and they soon discover the path to the ruins, deftly hidden under a couple branches. They notice a couple of the local Mayan kids watching them, but the kids, well their parents must have warned them about the stranger thing because they don’t respond to any questions.

Soon enough the multinational group finds the ruins- a vine-covered Mayan temple. A Mayan gentleman bursts from the jungle on horseback, yelling and waving his gun at them. More Mayans quickly show up armed with bows, arrows knocked. Our little group has no idea what’s going on, but when Dimitri approaches the Mayans, because you usually try to act aggressive toward people aiming weapons at you, he’s shot with an arrow before having the top of his head blown off. The rest of the group runs up to the top of the temple, with the Mayans content on holding their positions at the base. They soon realize the vines covering the temple are carnivorous, actively so, and that the Mayans are the guardians of the temple, ensuring that no one who goes there leaves alive to spread the terrible plant to the rest of the world.

the-ruins-fireUp until this point, the story is neither terrible nor remarkable. But from there on, the story becomes more ludicrous as each frame ticks by. Apparently in the thousands of years the Mayans have been guarding this temple, there were able to contain the vines by salting the ground around the temple. Good for them, they stopped the spread of the terrible plant. But I guess they felt fulfilled in heir duty at that point since they never tried to erect a wall, dig a trench, or even try a little Roundup.

It’s unclear if the Mayans ever tried to destroy the vines, but I’d say if you’ve surrounded by a bunch of vines you want removed, burning them might be a good way to go about it. The people trapped on top of the temple, in spite of making a fire and torches, never thought of burning the vines to, if not remove them, then at least thin their ranks. Maybe it works or maybe it pisses the vines off, but no, no one ever tries that.

And the Mayan guardians, it’s no wonder their civilization has all but vanished if this is the way they operate. They obviously understand the terrible nature of the vines and took measures to thwart their expansion, but then they have a couple kids running around as sentries to alert the adults after people arrive at the ruins. Then the Mayans sit around waiting for these people to succumb to either the vines or dehydration/starvation/exposure. The Mayans show no qualms about killing Dimitri or one of their own children after he’s struck by part of a plant pitched by Amy, but they’ll let the group of foreigners frolic around the temple, plotting an escape which could endanger the whole world, rather than quickly dispatch them and ensure there’s no escape.

These are only a couple of the things that could have logically taken place and nullified the whole story. I won’t even go into the handjob Stacy gives Erik (while in the tent with Jeff and Amy) after she falls into the temple and severely cut her leg while trying to rescue Mathias who broke his back after falling into the temple and is lying paralyzed just outside the tent, amputations deemed necessary by Jeff who knows all about blood and bone infections since he’s suddenly pre-Med, or further Mayan incompetence.

There are really a lot of questionable things that happened in the movie and it makes one wonder how this was written by the same author (Scott Smith) that wrote the critically lauded A Simple Plan.  Smith wrote both the books and both the screenplays. There are so many lapses in logic and generic elements in The Ruins that you’d assume some hack wrote it, not an Academy Award nominated writer.

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t give a comparison, but from what I gather, there are some oddities about the adaptation. The characters of Amy and Stacy basically have their names swapped in the movie, Amy taking on Stacy’s personality and vice-versa. Jeff is said to hail from Illinois in the movie, but they’re all from Massachusetts in the book. And many of the events happen the same way as in the book, just to different characters. It’s not a criticism, but you have to wonder why there were so many insignificant changes made in the adaptation when there were no characters that were eliminated or added, no real consequential events omitted or created. The changes seem pretty random and it’s not totally clear if there were any narrative motives behind them. You have to wonder if Smith was so consumed by trivialities that it had a tangible effect on the script, because, assuming the actors didn’t ad-lib everything, the problems with the movie are primarily script-related. It’s a generic story filled with generic characters that, frankly, should have been better given the pedigree of Scott Smith.

The Ruins isn’t an inherently bad movie, just crippled by its stupidity. It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone, it’s that I can think of thousands ahead of it on the list. If you need to see a movie about a killer plant, see Little Shop of Horrors. Audrey II is a hell of a lot more interesting than these lameass vines.

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