April 10, 2008

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The Ruins (R)
Stupid American youngsters go bumbling onto a cursed Mayan pyramid in The Ruins, a movie that is a very good argument for all-inclusive vacation packages.

Because, sure, at one of those soup-to-nuts you-never-leave-the-hotel-grounds resorts you won’t get a sense of the real culture of the place, but sometimes that culture might involve nature that wants to eat you, so really just be happy with your deck chair.

Stacy (Laura Ramsey), who is blonde, and Amy (Jena Malone), who is a whiner and a bit of a coward, and their bland boyfriends Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) are vacationing at a resort in Mexico. The trip is all drinking and sunburns until they meet Mathias (Joe Anderson), a German tourist who offers to show them some ancient ruins that his brother and a girl went to visit a few days back. These ruins were only recently discovered and aren’t even in the guide books. Naturally, our feckless foursome decides to go with him, immediately violating the two rules of surviving a horror movie set in a foreign locale: (1) never trust a “new friend” from a different country and (2) never go to anything that “isn’t in the guide book.”

Of course, almost the moment they actually find the ruins, locals show up waving guns and shouting. And, of course, our lil’ hikers ignore the guns (at least until the shooting starts) and the shouting and do exactly what locals are so obviously telling them not to do — climb the vine-covered ruins. (You don’t need to speak an obscure Mayan dialect — as our little brain surgeons think the locals are — to understand wild arm waves of “get away from there” and “I’m going to shoot you if you don’t get away from there.”)

And naturally, once the kids reach the top of the pyramid and do a little looking around and a little getting injured, they figure out that all the yelling might have been for a good reason and that not only are they unlikely to get off the now-local-people-surrounded pyramid but it doesn’t look like they’ll last very long on the ruins either.

The exact nature of the big bad here is pretty obvious from the first angry arm wave of the first horseback-riding local but of course the kids take a while to clue in. They also take a while to do much of anything about it — the fight-back sequence which can really make or further break a weak little horror movie like this — leaving a big chunk of the movie to be filled up with icky injuries and ickier attempts at fixing them.

With the exception of an amputation scene, however, The Ruins isn’t particularly imaginative in its gore and isn’t very artful in its suspense. Instead it serves as only a cautionary tale for what happens when you can’t MapQuest the destination of your day trips. D+

Rated R for strong violence and gruesome images, language, some sexuality and nudity. Directed by Carter Smith and written by Scott B. Smith (from a novel of the same name), The Ruins is an hour and 31 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Paramount Pictures.