>> The Ruins (John’s Review, 7/10)

The RuinsThere is no reason why The Ruins, a movie about American college students fighting against killer plants in Mexico, should work, but it does. It not only works, but it works well.

I read the Scott Smith novel on which the film was based because of the critical praise for the novel and my love for A Simple Plan, the 1998 Sam Raimi-directed thriller that Smith wrote. Smith knows a thing or two about building tension. He places his characters into a bad situation then makes things progressively worse, in large part by bad decisions made by the characters themselves. I was curious how The Ruins would translate this to film without the characters looking like idiotic stock horror youths–20-something dumb-dumbs who make stupid choices and then pay the price.

Strangely enough, Smith’s screenplay pares the story down successfully for the screen by eliminating some of the worried decision making between the main characters that exists in the novel. The choices made in the film by the main characters are snap, yet logical, despite almost always ending up capital “B” Bad. Smith supplies a less bleak ending for the film, but the finality of the novel is barely missed–the proceedings are bleak enough as is.

Four friends (Jonathan Tucker, Jenna Malone, Laura Ramsey, and Shawn Ashmore) on vacation in Mexico follow a German traveler in search of his brother to a secluded Mayan ruin. Things do not go well. Plant life is not the most threatening monster in a horror flick, but it is a testament to director Carter Smith that he makes this work as well as it does.

The movie feels immediate and real, adding to the tension, and Carter Smith gets remarkable performances out of his two female stars. All four actors sell the terror extremely well. Most horror films can get their actors to scream and scramble, but in The Ruins the actors seem genuinely terrified, successfully selling a film that, at times, is a hard sell.

It wouldn’t be too bold of me to name The Ruins as the best horror film of 2008 so far. It’s a movie that wants to make the audience tense and uncomfortable, and it does. The real feat in the film, however, is taking a silly concept and making it into a memorable threat.

7 on a 1 to 10 scale


1 Comment

  1. I missed this and THE SIGNAL and heard that both were good. Deadly plants can be kinda frightening. There’s honestly one moment in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS that does kind of give me a chill.

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