The Ruins

The Ruins (2007)
Dreamworks Home Entertainment
Cast: Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Jonathan Tucker, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes

There are certain films that for some strange reason seem to ring true with certain people and critics and become successes despite the fact that they are steeped in mediocrity. "The Ruins" is clearly one such movie and I understand that I am one of those few people who think this film is mere drivel. If you bear with me I will explain, though be forewarned that this review is riddled with spoilers.

Based on Scott Smith's novel, "The Ruins" tells the story of a group of teenagers on spring break in Mexico where they meet a German fellow who talks about an ancient, undiscovered Maya ruin in the jungle his brother found and has gone to explore. He asks the kids if they want to come along when he treks there to see this undiscovered historic treasure for himself.

The next day they are on their way and find the ruined pyramid but immediately they encounter hostile natives who yell at them in Spanish. The natives drive them up the steps of the pyramid but not before shooting one of them in the head. Trapped on the pyramid they soon learn that something evil seems to be lurking within the walls of this structure and sure enough, the death toll quickly begins to climb.

Before I go any further, let me tell you that I think the general premise and story of the film is not at all bad. It was solid enough to keep me watching because otherwise I would have turned my back on this film after 15 minutes. Sadly the execution and more exactly the script is a horribly misguided affair because nothing in this film makes any sense. I do not know if this is a result of the novel being equally clueless, but I do not intend to find out.

[This is where the spoilers begin. Do not read through the following few paragraphs if you do not wish to be clued into certain plot points of this film]

The issues in "The Ruins" fall into two major categories, the first one is that none of the characters is in any way likable. Mathias is probably the closest one to being affable, but he's also one of the first to die, of course, leaving the viewer with two spoiled bimbos and two absolutely clueless dudes. That is never a good way to carry any story, no matter how good it may be. As a result I could not care less whether they live or die – actually, I have to correct that statement – I wanted them all to die because they are complete morons. I was close to yelling "Die, bitch, die!" at the screen on more than one occasion.

Be that as it may however, the much bigger issue in the film is that there is no logic whatsoever being applied to the story. You can find flaws in virtually every scene, every line of dialogue, every single action the characters take.

Let me point out a few examples, just to give you a taste where the filmmakers left logic by the wayside. The kids decide to go to the jungle to find an uncharted ruin. As they lave the taxi to make the rest of the way through the jungle one of the girls complains "No one said anything about a hike…" I am not sure how she interpreted "undiscovered" and "uncharted" but in Mexico, to me that implies a hike through the jungle because if there were roads it wouldn't be so "uncharted" or "undiscovered," would it? Annoying as the gal is, she continues complaining that she's wearing only flip-flops, which is, of course, a great choice of footwear or a trek to some ancient ruins. Mind you however, during the movie's climax she races through the jungle in these same flip-flops like greased lightning, outrunning even the natives who know their way around the jungle. Best of all in her frenzied panic she even manages to home in on the exact location of the abandoned jeep despite the fact that before the kids had some serious trouble finding the runs in the first place. If you buy that "Coincidence" I guess you'll buy anything. In real life, not only would she be completely lost in the jungle, she would actually have been shot down by the natives within the first hundred yards to be sure.

Then there is the amazingly misguided tent scene. After watching one of their fellows' head explode from a gunshot wound and his brain matter splatter across their faces and shirts, after finding Mathias' brother – or more exactly his half-gnawed off bones – and after Mathias accident that will most likely kill him too, the blonde bimbo has nothing better to do than jack off her boyfriend in the tent as if it was just another day at the beach. I mean, how removed from reality can you get? There are no histrionics and everyone is either cool or in heat. Never mind the logic.

And what about the tent? Mathias brother doesn't seem to have been bothered by the natives if he had the time to pitch a tent and build a nice campsite. And what about he plants? Is there any particular reason why they wait an entire day before they actually take the initiative? Why not attack right away? The flesh's there…
What about the whole stupid water issue? The kids start rationing water right away without ever checking Mathias' brother's provisions. If he had the time to set up camp I am sure he had a little water and food as well. Not in this film, it would appear. In this film everything is conveniently fitting together whether it makes sense or not. I take that as a direct insult.

[This is the end of the spoiler part.]

Those were just a few of the endless array of things that make absolutely no sense in this film. The only reason I watched it to the end was because the premise itself had some promise that was sadly wasted in its entirety in this hack of a film.

The Blu-Ray version of the movie looks every bit as great as you'd expect. Sporting a 1080p transfer that is free of blemishes and defects, the images is wonderfully rich and detailed. The presentation is very sharp with well delineated edges that do not appear enhanced and the images contain wonderfully fine textures that reveal every bit of detail in the photography. Black levels are solid and overall the movie's visual presentation is probably its best asset. Capturing the Mexican jungle and ruins has been well worked out and looks wonderfully natural.

The audio presentation of the release is also solid with a TrueHD Dolby Digital audio track that is aggressive and splendidly powerful. Dialogues are well integrated and the sound effects have nice spatial direction. A good bass extension gives the track plenty of bottom end and there is no distortion to distract from the presentation.

The release contains a few bonus materials but please bear with me that I could not get myself to re-watch the film, and more importantly not with the gushing comments of the film's hack director and editor.

There are also some deleted scenes and making of featurettes, none of which really added much of anything to the release, I found.

I am not sure why it good the good reviews that it received but it sure didn't deserve them. It may just be that the horror genre has declined to such abysmal incompetency that even drivel like "The Ruins" stands out as if it were a good film. Unless you misinterpret "horror movies" with "horrible movies" like the filmmakers clearly did, "The Ruins" is waste of time and an insult to your intelligence. While it offers a solid and great-looking technical presentation, this film is a poor man's excuse for a story, really, for the sake of shocking viewers with excessive gore.