Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Ruins (2008) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Four young Americans go on holiday to Mexico. It's almost the end of their trip and they're beginning to regret having done nothing but sit by the pool when they meet Mathias, the world's least convincing German. He tells them that his brother is an archaeologist and casually invites them along to the dig. Off they go and, lo and behold, there's no sign of the brother. What they do encounter is an ancient curse, plus a gang of armed Mayans determined to keep them on the ziggurat to prevent the curse from spreading further. And there's no sign of rescue.
That's really about it. The nature of the horror is refreshing, even if certain (deliberate) comedies have done it better, but if you're expecting hidden subtexts or clever plot twists then you're shit out of luck. But The Ruins is so badly made, and has such utterly stupid wannabe scary moments, that you may well find yourself thoroughly entertained anyway.
As a horror movie, this is a curious beast. It keeps setting up nasty, gory moments and then shying away at the last minute, wussing out of actually showing us the action. Some of the scenes of wounding are much like watching a stage actor 'stab' somebody with a sword which actually passes behind him. Sex is likewise talked about but not actually shown, though the two women spend an unlikely amount of time in their underwear. It's possible that this is because of the heat. We are reminded that they "need a gallon and a half of water each day just to stay alive" but they seem to do just fine with two or three tiny bottles, despite the fact that they're also consuming alcohol. There's almost a Matrix-like quality about this - it seems that when the characters forget something, the film forgets it too.
The Ruins also contains some of the worst acting I've seen in a mainstream film for a long, long time. Laura Ramsey, in particular, is atrociously bad as the increasingly hysterical Stacy, so that one sometimes wonders if she's deliberately taking the piss. Her scenes of surgical agony are destined to become a YouTube classic. Joe Anderson, who showed some promise in Copying Beethoven, gives Mathias an accent which would have embarrassed 'Allo 'Allo! and recites his lines as if reading from an autocue, his character greeting his brother's disappearance as if he'd misplaced a packet of biscuits.
The song which plays over the closing credits suggests that the filmmakers were aware, at least on some level, of its destiny as comedy, but it is still rather hit and miss. Comments like "four American tourists don't just disappear!" is funny until one remembers that, in fact, hideous accidents in the jungle, not to mention kidnappings, are hardly unheard of. The real dangers of that environment are cheerfully ignored here in favour of horrors which look as if they have been made from crepe paper by nursery school children. It's a shame this carries an 18 certificate, as nursery school children are probably the only people likely to find it scary.Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2008
If you like this, try:Little Shop Of Horrors