Book adaptations really can be hit or miss depending on your views. If you’re a purist then most adaptations fall vastly under the mark but if you can just sit back and enjoy then it doesn’t matter if things are changed. “The Ruins” is a hard one to classify because the story is there for the most part, more so than in most novel translations, but the changes and the lack of ending really hurt this for a lot of people.
Four friends are on a vacation in Mexico. There’s Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) a future doctor, his wishy-washy girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone), the wiseass Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and his drama queen love Stacey (Laura Ramsey). They end up meeting a German tourist named Mathias (Joe Anderson) who invites them on a trip to see some Mayan ruins and find his brother in the process. The trouble happens once they find the ruins and the villagers quarantine them, refusing them to let them leave the site on penalty of death. Thus kicks off an hour and a half of the friends trying to survive against some deadly foliage.
Yes I did say “deadly foliage” and that’s what I loved about “The Ruins.” The vines in this movie are the killer and they come off very much like parasites. For fans of movies where burrowing bugs, plants, etc end up killing people will be in for a treat. This movie will also be a huge hit for the gorehounds because it is chock full of blood and viscera. The movie is filled with great character chemistry which is what you need in a movie with only five main characters. The entire hour and a half is spent with the five tourists and they all bond together, their neuroses come out and it all plays out brilliantly. In watching the movie I found myself comparing it to Eli Roth’s “Cabin Fever” in regards to the quarantine aspect so fans of that movie will also like this. This comes in handy when the characters start turning on each other. There’s eye candy for both men and women so this should be a great date movie if I can say that.
The movie’s plot doesn’t get any praise because it is an incredibly slim one. The entire movie focuses on these friends trying to survive on this ruin amongst vines and their own problems. This tends to make the movie seem incredibly brief and by the end you haven’t learned anything. You never learn about the village and their life with this ruin or anything so it makes everything that you’ve watched seem very abrupt. The ending will easily leave you happy or angry. The ending is incredibly abrupt and leaves you with numerous questions that make you wonder whether it was due to the lack of time or the writer’s negligence but I ended up comparing the ending to the “The Mist” and found it lacking. People who cannot stand breaking bones or backwoods surgery should avoid this as there are several moments I had to look away, especially when a character’s legs are being amputated. The camera does not shy away so be prepared. They also include some nudity, both male and female, that came out of nowhere and just seemed like a need to secure the R-rating. The translation from the novel is heavily changed so if you are a purist you will be irritated by the changes made in the movie.
I think what saves this movie is the cast and their chemistry. All the main characters get a moment to shine but Jonathan Tucker and Jena Malone easily is the best of the five. Tucker always brings a solid performance and as the doctor leader he just comes off as the perfect take-charge, strong action hero. Malone is also fun to watch as the scared, somewhat selfish Amy. You’re constantly wondering whether you like her or not and a lot of that is by how conflicted Malone plays the character. Shawn Ashmore is great as the comic relief and Laura Ramsey is also riveting to watch as she slowly loses her mind. Joe Anderson is probably the weakest of the cast since he doesn’t have anything to do.
Overall I’d give “The Ruins” a 3.5/5. It’s got some deep flaws and you’ll leave the theater asking numerous questions but this is one of the better movies out this year and the cast is just phenomenal.