THE RUINS

R, 90 min, 2008

Director: Carter Smith
Writers: Scott B. Smith (screenplay), Scott B. Smith (novel)
Stars: Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker

The Ruins is a horror film that begins stupid, gets mildly intriguing, and then dumps us out groaning into a pile of ridiculousness.

The plot: Amy (Jenna Malone) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey) are best friends taking a vacation in Mexico between college terms. Amy’s boyfriend Jeff (fresh-faced Jonathan Tucker) is a burgeoning medical student, and Stacy’s is Eric (Shawn Ashmore), the scruffy charmer who bets his girl oral sex when, during a drunken night out with the German stranger Mathias (Joe Anderson from Across the Universe), they think that Amy is about to kiss him.

Mathias, meanwhile, has told the tourists about some legendary ancient Mayan temple ruins out in the middle of nowhere, which they “have to see” before they go home. The tourists, along with Mathias and his Greek pal Dimitri, upon venturing out into the jungles of Mexico, meet some non-Spanish-speaking natives who are less than friendly; guns drawn, they seem to defend their territory fiercely the moment anyone goes close to the vine-shrouded stairs at the foot of the ruins.

Believe it or not, things get worse, as it soon appears that the ruins themselves are no big deal, but the vines around them can cause auditory and visual hallucinations, essentially turning those who touch them into a zombie – and they can devour people whole. At this point, I could no longer be bothered to care.

The young cast does the best they can with the material – which nobody can do a good job with. This steaming pile of the alternatingly boring and proposterous was directed by Carter Smith; it’s his first feature. What is more appalling is that the screenplay was written by Scott B. Smith (of A Simple Plan fame – yes, him!), who based it on his own novel.

This could not possibly be further in quality, style or subject matter from that masterpiece, as a group of bubble-brained college students get drunk and wander off into the great unknown, only to be slowly devoured physically and mentally by killer vines. I wish I was making this up.

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