Terror has an appetite in this week’s “The Ruins” directed by Hollywood newcomer Carter Smith. Adapted from Scott B. Smith’s novel of the same name, the film breathes life back into the declining horror genre while serving viewers generous portions of madness and gore on a blood-stained platter.
Compliments to the chef.
Enjoying the last day of their Mexican vacation, four friends meet the mysterious Mathias (Joe Anderson), a German vacationer searching for his errant brother. Jumping at the chance to explore the ancient Mayan temple where Mathias’ brother is presumed to be, Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) convinces his girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone) and their two friends Eric and Stacy (Shawn Ashmore and Laura Ramsey) to tag-a-long.
Their impromptu adventure takes a sinister turn when a violent run-in with the locals leaves them stranded on top of the very temple they were seeking. Unwilling to challenge the villagers’ merciless fear, they find themselves captives of an ancient evil that lives amongst the temple’s remains. Faced with dehydration and starvation, they struggle to survive while slowly to insanity and their own fear.
The same author wrote both the novel and the screenplay, which made the film flow from scene to scene without the “lost in translation” feeling that some adaptations tend to have.
With a well-written story line that is original and credible, the film is definitely more than the average “B” movie. It is a refreshing change from all of the remakes in the recent past.
Another key element of the film is the high-quality acting. Each character brings a different aspect to the story and adds another unique flavor to the pot. Tucker (“In the Valley of Elah”) plays a believable medical student looking for a bit of culture in his otherwise carefree vacation. A natural leader, he is the one to take charge of the situation while being forced to perform unconscionable acts.
Malone (“Pride and Prejudice”) is so convincing as the whiny, troublesome girlfriend that one almost wishes she would be killed off first just to put everyone out of their misery. Ashmore (“Earthsea”) and Joe Anderson (“Across the Universe”) give commendable performances, as well.
The standout performance, however, has to go to Ramsey (“The Covenant”). She begins the film as a beautiful, bubbly college student without a care in the world. That attitude slowly turns to madness as the movie progresses. Her fear is palpable in her every scene. Her reactions to the changing situations are natural and truly heartbreaking to watch. She certainly takes self-mutilation to a whole new level.
If the movie were a cake with the writing and acting skills as ingredients, then the icing on the cake would be the special effects. Simply put, they are stunning. The quality is amazing, and one can tell that great skill and effort has gone into even the minute details. Blessedly absent are all the rushed and shoddy effects that many horror flicks tend to disgrace the big screen with.
“The Ruins” is certainly a breath of fresh air amongst the stagnant array of recent horror films. You get four beautiful people whose deterioration into desperation and insanity leaves them not so beautiful anymore. Add to that a plausible story line, above par acting, and enough carnage to satisfy even the most sadistic of audiences, and you get a film that is classic horror at its best.