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Vines Run Amok
by Matt Forsman on Apr 04, 2008
In the past couple years we’ve been well informed that it is simply a bad idea to be young, horny, inebriated, and abroad on vacation. Films such as Hostel and Touristas have underscored the inherent risks associated with the aforementioned. You could have your organs harvested, your eye pulled out, or simply end up with a REALLY bad hangover (and an STD).
The Ruins mines similar territory as two nubile couples go on vacation in Mexico and are invited to check out a ‘secret’ archaeological dig site near a Mayan ruin ‘not on the map’. Clearly the stars of this film never saw Hostel or Touristas. Anytime you’re invited to go somewhere ‘secret’ or otherwise off the map, you can count on getting more than a hangover and a case of the clap.
As soon as the kids arrive at the site, a group of agitated Mayan locals surrounds them not allowing them to leave the site. Things go from bad to worse, as one of the kids who came to the site with them is shot and killed when he tries to bribe the locals to let them go. Trapped on top of the ruin, the kids come to learn exactly why the locals won’t let them leave, there’s something terrible in the ruin…vines with a penchant for human flesh!
While it would be a stretch to call The Ruins "unique", the setup is interesting. The kids are trapped on top of a ruin and surrounded by Mayan locals while the vines from hell gradually consume them and/or infect them. We gradually see their nerves (and sanity) fray as they cling to the vain hope that someone will find them before all of them are killed.
Credit should be given to the actors in this film who pretty convincingly portray the terror and angst of their fairly hopeless situation. Jena Malone plays Amy, who was just looking for some time on the beach and some tropical drinks. Initially seen as a fairly shallow, one dimensional character, we see there’s more to her in the midst of a crisis. Her boyfriend Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) is the ‘rational’ one and de facto leader of the group, but his logic and rational approach to things proves to be relatively useless in this situation.
While Jeff, Amy and the rest of the cast are not necessarily unlikable, it’s challenging to really connect with any of them. We know Jeff is rational, responsible, and headed to medical school, but that’s about it. We know even less about the rest of the characters in the film. You can feel for their plight on a superficial level, but anything more than this is difficult.
The other problem with The Ruins is the actual ‘villain’ of the film…the vines. These vines truly seem threatening (LEAGUES more threatening than anything from Day of The Triffids), but they’re VINES!! How threatening can a vine truly be? The kids had access to fire, surely they could have simply burned all of the vines in short order. Granted, these ‘mutant’ vines might be flame retardant, but this seems a bit of a stretch.
The Ruins provides a few genuine scares, a reasonable amount of tension/discomfort, and far too many gory, gross out moments. The film actually would have been better if the more gruesome moments had left a little bit more to the imagination. It’s not a horror classic, but horror is your genre of choice, you could do worse than The Ruins.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
by Matt Forsman on Apr 04, 2008