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The Ruins : Unrated [DVD]

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By Adam Frazier

Based off the Scott B. Smith novel by the same name, “The Ruins” is a mysterious horror film by newcomer director Carter Smith. For those of you who might not be connoisseurs of the macabre, the current state of horror films is a sad affair, and “The Ruins” only adds to the pile of disheartening, cookie-cutter films that has come out in the past decade.

Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and Amy (Jena Malone) are a couple of attractive college kids on an exquisite Mexican vacation with friends Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey). In between sessions of lounging by the pool at their Cancun resort, these bright up-and-comers fulfill their stereotypical existence as college students by binge drinking and participating in premarital sex.

One day, whilst pool lounging, the group meets Mathias (Joe Anderson), a fellow partier from Munich, who is at the resort with friends. After a margarita, Mathias tells the group his brother just so happens to be on an archaeological dig at a Mayan ruin.

Here comes the hook. You know, the hook that always seems to ensnare these dumb 20-somethings into thinking a really bad idea might just turn out to be a good idea? Yeah, that’s about to happen.

As Mathias unravels his cryptic story, we learn this ancient ruin isn’t just any ancient ruin – it’s off the beaten path. Yes ladies and gentlemen, hold your gasps, because this dig site is completely untouched and missing from all the tourist travel guides. Upon hearing this exciting news, Jeff and his friends saddle up and head out to the ruin with Mathias and his friend Dimitri.

After miles of hiking, our tourists arrive at their destination. The ruin, which seems to be an ancient Mayan temple, is a towering, intimidating structure in the middle of nowhere. Before they can even break out the sunscreen, a group of villagers surround them.

Uh-oh. This isn’t good. I can’t believe going to a secret, mysterious ruin would yield such a surprising result. These villagers aren’t too happy about strangers trespassing on the sacred ground of the temple, and immediately show their disappointment in the form of guns and arrows.

The group is essentially herded by the villagers and forced to scale the steps of the temple. From here, our group of wild and crazy college kids is quarantined atop an ancient ruin, which holds a deadly secret.

What will become of them? What lies in the dark crypts of the ruins? Who will survive and what will be left of them? WHO CARES?

The biggest problem with “The Ruins” is the same problem that plagues 98% of all horror films these days, absolutely no characterization whatsoever. Why should we care about the fates of these dumb, promiscuous kids when no care is taken in how they are presented to us?

Jeff, the leader in this film, is the only character in the whole flick who gets a hint of back story –his plans to attend medical school are only there to satisfy the instances in the film where he performs improvised surgeries and deals out helpful advice.

Why should I care if some shrieking girl, fit for a Girls Gone Wild DVD, is going to die? I’m sure I’ll see the exact same character in the next poorly scripted, badly acted horror film.

“The Ruins” is a predictable, derivative, underwhelming mess of a movie. The real disappointment is the direction in which the story goes. These villagers, who act as sacred keepers of the ruins, intrigued me. I wanted to know more about them, and most of all I wanted to know how much they knew about the temple.

Too bad they were nothing more than out-of-bounds markers so the characters couldn’t flee the ruins so easily. Then there’s the temple itself. It’s ancient and mysterious and full of wonder. I want to know what’s in there! I want to know what kind of secret might lay in its bowels.

But no, we as the audience must sit through 91 minutes of crying and panicking as the babysitter’s club sits on top of the ruin with no idea of what they’re doing, and as it would seem the filmmakers didn’t have a clue either.

Surprisingly, the practical and special effects were actually pretty competent. Those looking for a decent dose of gore would leave satisfied after their visit to “The Ruins.” For everyone else, though, there’s nothing to see here.

The real horror of “The Ruins” is that this kind of mindless, empty and predictable rubbish is still passable as entertaining horror to today’s audiences.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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