Based on a novel by Scott Smith The Ruins is an example of the breed of horror films, alongside recent chillers like The Descent and Wolf’s Creek, which relies on psychological thrills as much as out-and-out gore to make an impact.
The set-up is relatively standard. A group of four good looking but underwritten college students on Spring Break in Mexico take an ill-advised trip to see a newly discovered pyramid, rumored to be an ancient venue for human sacrifice. Once there they find out that the hostile locals aren’t their biggest problem. A primeval trap made of flesh-eating vines—that’s right, angry plants!—opens a nightmare that threatens to take both their sanity and their lives. If only they had packed a Weed Whacker things might have been different.
The Ruins doesn’t play out like Little Shop of Horrors, the other man-eating plant movie. For one thing these plants don’t sing. They do, however, literally get under people’s skins, causing all sorts of problems.
The Ruins is intense, and in some moments, gut-wrenching, but is marred by thinly rendered characters, some dodgy CGI and a tendency to rely on sound effects and music to provide many of the “boo” moments rather than have the frights come from the situation.
It did, however, make me squirm, and while it has plenty of gory moments it isn’t the blood and guts that terrifies. It is the hopeless situation, the unrelenting air of menace that really plays on the viewer’s fears.
For those who don’t find the original cut bleak enough, the Unrated DVD comes equipped with scenes “too intense for theatres.”