The Ruins is directed by Carter Smith and adapted to screenplay by Scott B. Smith from his own novel of the same name. It stars Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey and Joe Anderson. Music is by Graeme Revell and cinematography by Darius Khondji.
Two young couples on holiday in Mexico make friends with a German tourist, Mathias (Anderson), who tells them of his missing brother who had gone off to view a Mayan ruin deep in the jungle. Their interest piqued, they agree to go on the adventure the following day. Once arriving at the remote ruin, though, they all find more than they bargained for....
Hot young cast in horror film that follows a stagnated formula? Well no, actually. It has all the hallmarks of being yet another in a sad long line of horror movies that con the faithful into watching it, only to disappoint with an unadventurous plot, making a quick bit of cash before disappearing in the stale popcorn tinted wind. The Ruins has generic moments, certainly the first half hour is your standard meet and greet your young protagonists stuff, but once we get to the ruins of the title the film shifts into a different world. Our fears that this is going to be just another case of guessing what order the young holiday makers are going to be sliced and diced, are quickly vanquished, this is a tale of survival, of a youthful group dynamic under severe threat, and bonus here is that the antagonist is something very different to what normally stalks these genre movies.
This really could have been a cheese fest, an unintentionally funny film, using gore and nudity to hide shortcomings in the screenplay, but it's not, writer Scott Smith has provided director and cast with material that pulses with an unexpected bleakness, a facing up to mortality at a young age, and crucially the characters do viable things given their circumstance, and that's mighty refreshing in a era of horror bulging with stupidity. It helped me personally that I knew next to nothing about the film before viewing it, and unlike some film lovers I'm not overly familiar with the young cast, though Joe Anderson is always on my plus list after his turn as Peter Hook in Control. But while it clearly didn't revolutionise horror as a genre, it at least had the gumption to veer in a different direction, going deeper in basic thematics than similar big budgeted films have.
Tension is deftly mounted, what blood and body horror there is (and a couple of scenes are genuinely wince inducing and well staged) is not cheap and exploitive, while the finale doesn't cop out. True, there are some unanswered questions that leap out when the end credits roll, and anyone expecting a fast paced thrill ride are right out of luck. Yet for those who lean towards a good psychological horror then this is very much recommended. 7.5/10