Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Ruins

Well, it's been a long time since I've seen a mainstream teen-oriented horror movie. I stopped once the slasher trend started. One of the last ones I saw was 2002's The Ring with Naomi Watts. And while I think the scene with the horse on the ferry is one of the coolest ever, the genre isn't really my kind of thing. Occasionally I'll get the urge to see one, like Resident Evil or something equally frivolous, and this time it just happened to be The Ruins. It looked like it might actually have some scary moments and while it didn't seem entirely original, I was going to give it the benefit of the doubt.

From what I've read about the buzz on this movie, everyone seems to think a certain thing happens to the kids that stumble upon the ancient Mayan ruins. And I was in the same boat. This is tricky to talk about, because I don't want to give anything away. Of course, if you've read the book by Scott B. Smith that the movie was based on, then you know most of what happens. Let me just put it this way. I thought the kids encountered one thing when they got to the ruins but I was completely wrong. The trailers made it look like one thing and the movie is about another. I enjoyed and was surprised at being wrong about The Ruins and I would like to try to keep those feelings intact for those of you who haven't seen it yet.

While The Ruins was mostly pleasurable, it wasn't scary in the way I thought it would be. There weren't any moments that made you jump. The fear comes in the sympathy that's felt towards these kids. The experiences they're having are surreal. It's so bizarre and awful that it can't be real, but it is, and you're terrified for them. And amidst all of what's going on, you realize their situation is almost completely hopeless. They're stuck on an ancient Mayan temple, forced to stay where the are by the villagers who live in the jungle. They'll die if they stay on the temple, they'll die if they get off the temple. Situations like that have to be scary. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. The Ruins is successfully terrifying only if you're able to put yourself in the characters' shoes. Otherwise, you'll have it enjoy The Ruins for it's gore.

From the previews, you see things crawling under the kids' skin, this is a given. This is far from torture porn, this isn't the next Hostel or Saw. But the best parts of the movie are the grossest. When they attempt to cut these things out of their bodies, even the most stolid of people will become squeamish. And cauterizing an amputated limb with a hot frying pan? The guy screaming in agony says it all.

The Ruins was a decent movie. Nothing noteworthy, but also not a waste of money. If you were a fan of the book, by all means, go see it. I read that most of the characters deaths were switched around to give those familiar with the story a new experience. And if you're into this new type of horror movie, then go for it. Or if you're looking to feel really sorry for some American tourists, then this is definitely for you.

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