I have a problem with "The Ruins" and it is rather strangely who its target audience is because here we have a movie which starts with 4 young people enjoying themselves by the pool and then partying in the evening. It makes it immediately feel like a horror cliche as we have young people ending up in trouble and when you have a scene of one drinking heavily and the next day one is naked it makes it feel even more like a horror cliche. The annoyance is that further on in the movie it actually becomes good, we get atmosphere, mystery, ingenuity and plenty of visual horror which whilst not my favourite form of horror is certainly effective. But because "The Ruins" starts like so many other horror movies with these young party lovers on holiday it puts you off.
Best friends Amy (Jena Malone - Into the Wild) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey) along with their boyfriends Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore - X-Men: The Last Stand) are coming to the end of their holiday in Mexico when they meet Mathias (Joe Anderson) who invites them to come with him to take a look at a Mayan temple. But the minute they arrive things take a turn for a worse as a group of armed locals block their exit and force them up the steps to the top of the temple ruins and once there they find themselves trapped. When they hear what appears to be a cell phone ringing from a shaft leading in to the ruins Mathius is winched down to investigate but ends up falling leaving him with a broken back and as the girls go down to help him they end up being attacked, not by humans but the creeping vines which cover the tunnel and the temple.
So as already mentioned my big issue with "The Ruins" is that it starts like a cliche teen horror where we have a small group of young people enjoying a holiday of sex and booze. It lowers your expectations of what is to come as you suspect it will never be anything more than a horror cliche and for a while that is all it is. In fact it feels like a cliche for so long that it begins to struggle to keep your attention.
But the "The Ruins" comes good as the horror kicks in; I am not on about the locals with their weapons blocking the friends from leaving but Amy and Stacy's encounter with the carnivorous vines which engulf them as they are winched out of the shaft screaming. The thing is that carnivorous plants are not original but director Carter Smith employs these creeping vines brilliantly to build horror both in atmosphere and visually. I won't go in to details but when we discover that these vines like drinking blood we get two terrific very visual scenes which make you sit up and pay attention.
What follows on from there is a lot of visual horror as these friends not only have to take some tough decisions to try and survive but also become affected by these vines especially when one of them becomes infected by them. Usually this sort of horror does little for me but the atmosphere which surrounds these gore scenes is brilliant to make them more than just visually uncomfortable but also psychologically.
It is thanks to director Carter Smith that having alienated me to start with he managed to regain my attention with that mix of atmosphere and horror with some surprisingly good special effects. Unfortunately Smith is saddled with some typical characters and there is very little depth to any of them, although to be honest you can't be sure who will end up a victim like you can in most horrors. Out of these characters the most entertaining is Stacy and Laura Ramsey does a great job of delivering the derangement of her character when things take a turn for the worse for her.
What this all boils down to is that "The Ruins" is a horror movie aimed at young people which unfortunately makes it feel cliche with are small group of young fun loving holiday makers. But get past this annoying cliche and "The Ruins" comes good with a terrific mix of horror both visual gore and unsettling atmosphere.