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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.07%
Worth A Look33.93%
Just Average: 21.43%
Pretty Crappy: 3.57%
Sucks: 25%

6 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Ruins, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Waiting On A Friend"
1 stars

Observant moviegoers will have noticed that there has been a sharp increase of late in movies that are being released without the benefit of advance screenings for critics, pretty much a dead giveaway that the movie in question is a dog and the studio is trying to keep the news from getting out for as long as possible in order to pry as much money out of audiences in its opening weekend before the word of mouth about its quality gets around. In most cases, when a film is dumped out in this fashion, especially a genre film, it frankly doesn’t come as much of a surprise–is there anyone out there who was shocked to discover that films like “One Missed Call,” “Doomsday” and “The Eye” might have been somehow lacking in artistic merit? However, when it was announced that the new horror film “The Ruins” would be going out sans reviews, the news caught many people off guard. For one thing, this was a film based on the acclaimed second novel by Scott B. Smith, whose first work, “A Simple Plan,” was a hugely popular book that was adapted into an equally impressive 1998 film by Sam Raimi. For another, the advance word that had been leaking out in the networks dedicated to genre filmmaking seemed to suggest that it was going to be pretty good. Was this a case of a good project that somehow went horribly wrong or was Dreamworks concerned that reviewers and preview audiences might not accept the film’s central premise and use that as a reason for warding people off? Sitting down to see “The Ruins” at a midnight show, I wasn’t sure which one it was going to be but by the end of the first reel, it became painfully clear that this was one of those properties that just doesn’t translate to the big screen and the result is a would-be horror film that is far more tepid than it is terrifying.

The film opens as a quartet of exceptionally pretty Ugly Americans–a group of walking archetypes including the Smart Guy (Jonathan Tucker), the Party Guy (Shawn Ashmore), the Smart Brunette Girl Who Doesn’t Take Off Her Clothes (Jena Malone) and the Dumb Blonde Girl Who Doesn’t Take Off Her Clothes Enough (Laura Ramsey)–as they are nearing the end of their holiday at a Mexican resort. They make the acquaintance of a Hunky German (Joe Anderson) who offers to take them along on a trip that he is making to some remote Mayan ruins where his brother went as part of an archeological study and has yet to return from. The next day, they head out into the jungle and find the dig atop a massive vine-covered staircase. Villagers arrive and try to force them to leave but when Smart Brunette sets foot on the vines, the locals change their tune and force them to ascend the stairs while setting up camp to prevent them from leaving. Alas, our heroes makes the gang from “The Blair Witch Project” look like hardy survivalists by comparison and they are barely there a few minutes before a search in the mine shaft at the top of the hill for a cell phone that they hear ringing incessantly ends with one of them suffering a broken back and another receiving a deep gash in the leg. This, mind you, is all before they discover the true horrifying secret of the ruins and why they have been forced up there with no hope of escape. In the event that you haven’t read the novel, I will not reveal the secret except to note that if you are familiar with one of the early screen credits of Jack Nicholson, you will be much further ahead than any of the characters on the screen.

On the page, “The Ruins” succeeded not because of the story it told (which was pretty ridiculous) but because of the way it was told–even though it probably would have been better as a short story than as a full-length novel, Smith kept you squirming so thoroughly throughout that you didn’t even realize how silly the entire thing was until long after the final page had been read. The basic premise of the story hasn’t changed much in its journey to the big screen (though many of the plot details in the second half have been altered–including the ending–and the psychological terrors undergone by our heroes has largely been eschewed for the more visceral physical ones) but in translating it to the medium of film, Smith (who also penned the screenplay) and debuting director Carter Smith have made two crucial errors that doom the film almost from the get-go. For one thing, they have failed to figure out a way to make the evil thing stalking the characters into something even remotely frightening–what sort of worked in one’s imagination just comes across as ridiculous up on the screen. For another thing, they haven’t figured out a way to tell the story in a way that allows viewers to overlook the fact that the central horror is anything but horrifying–the narrative plods along at a snails pace until the last fifteen minutes, where everything is inexplicably rushed and the characters are so one-note and unlikable that most viewers will find themselves looking forward to their grisly demises because it means that they won’t be annoying us anymore.

“The Ruins” may be a bad horror movie but it is at least a good-looking bad horror movie–the cinematography from the always-brilliant Darius Khondji is exceptional (though it doesn’t begin to compare with the glories that he has conjured up in the upcoming “My Blueberry Nights” and while the main actors are largely irritating, they are at least attractive enough to serve as eye candy (at least before the bloodshed commences). Other than that, the film is pretty much a dead bulb from start to finish and no amount of fake blood can cover up the fact that it simply doesn’t work at all on any level. Fans of the book will be outraged to see that their beloved story has been reduced to just another big-screen craptacular. Fans of horror films will be disappointed to see that this is just more proof that the genre–at least the American branch–is in the midst of a severe artistic recession for which there appears to be no immediate relief in sight. Fans of Ben Stiller (assuming such people still exist) will discover that he has an executive-producer credit and ruefully realize that, based on the reaction of the crowd that I saw it with, that this fairly pitiful excursion into terror actually contains more laughs, however unintentional, than most of the straightforward comedies that he has been involved with as of late.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17079&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/04/08 04:33:27
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User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell not bad would like to read the book 4 stars
12/08/15 Luis Bernardo It isn't The Descent , but, it scared the hell out of me and it scared Stephen King! 4 stars
10/15/15 David Hollingsworth Intense, disturbing, and squirm-inducing 5 stars
5/11/10 bronson Great movie. Great characters 4 stars
5/30/09 art this film isn't for wimp's! 3 stars
4/25/09 matt well-acted, but unintentionally hilarious and un-scary 3 stars
1/06/09 FrankNFurter Killer flowers.That's right...better for comedy than horror.My venus flytrap is scarier! 2 stars
8/10/08 George Barksdale Average horror movie 3 stars
7/28/08 Dave This review is right on - great movie! 5 stars
7/18/08 Shaun Wallner Killer Weed!! My kind of movie! 5 stars
7/13/08 action movie fan college kids menaced by flesh eating vines-unique shocker that works 4 stars
7/11/08 VMANIC1 Movie makers of today just REFUSE to make a movie that has a definite ending. 3 stars
6/03/08 Priscilla Postlethwaite Audrey, eat your heart out!!!! 3 stars
4/22/08 Quigley The book was better, which doesn't say much. Definitely not what it could have been. 3 stars
4/15/08 Servo You guys are crazy. This movie was horror greatness. Better than the book even! 4 stars
4/11/08 Colleen Cousineau Typical book movie. 4 stars
4/08/08 shaw avoid this movie 2 stars
4/06/08 Esther Schwartz Good, but ... the book was better. 4 stars
4/04/08 Ron20003 No characters. No explainations. No thrills! 1 stars
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  04-Apr-2008 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jul-2008



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Carter Smith

Written by
  Scott Smith

  Jonathan Tucker
  Laura Ramsey
  Jena Malone
  Shawn Ashmore

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