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Movie Review

The Ruins a.k.a. “Rovine,” “Ruinen”

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and gruesome images, language, some sexuality and nudity

Reviewed by: Sara Bickley
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Genre:
Thriller, Horror, Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 31 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
April 4, 2008 (wide—2,500 theaters)
Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks Copyright, DreamWorks
Relevant Issues
Copyright, DreamWorks

Fear, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer

Bible Archaeology

The Rainforest: People, Animals and Facts
Learn about the rainforest by meeting some native peoples, seeing where and how they live, and more! A cross-cultural photo-rich journey that will leave you with a lasting impression.

Plants of the Bible

Featuring: Jonathan Tucker

Jena Malone
“Contact,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Into the Wild

Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson, Sergio Calderón, Bar Paly, Dimitri Baveas, Jesse Ramirez
Director: Carter Smith
Producer: Chris Bender, Stuart Cornfeld, Trish Hofmann, Ben Stiller
Distributor: DreamWorks

“Terror has evolved.”

A typical zombie movie and a typical slasher movie have a lot in common. Both involve a small group of people in an isolated setting trying to stave off a powerful, not-quite-human menace. The difference is focus. Zombie movies are about groups: outside, the zombies are legion; inside, the humans struggle to work together. Slasher movies are about individuals: one man is doing all the killing, and only one girl will outwit him and survive.

The menace in “The Ruins” is not a murdering madman or a zombie horde, but a colony of predatory plants. Yet the “slasher” and “zombie” plots are both represented; in fact, the transition between the two is a major part of the film.

The story begins conventionally enough, with four college students (Laura Ramsey, Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker, and Shawn Ashmore) on vacation in Mexico. Another tourist, Mathias (Joe Anderson) plans to visit his brother at the titular ruins (a Mayan pyramid) and invites the four to accompany him.

Once there, they find themselves plunged into an impossible situation: Mathias’s brother and his team are missing, Mathias and Stacy (Ramsey) become injured while looking for him, and a group of natives have surrounded the pyramid, trapping the group at the top. The natives cannot be reasoned with—they speak neither English nor Spanish—and have demonstrated their willingness to kill.

The most interesting character in this first half of the movie is Stacy. She is strong-willed, proactive, and willing to take risks. If “The Ruins” were a slasher movie, Stacy would be the “final girl” and everyone else would, by default, be doomed.

All this, though, is before the evil plants show up. Stacy is unstoppable when dealing with things that are within her ken, but when something unknown appears, her emotional strength dries up and her sanity unravels. Being entirely self-reliant, she is helpless when confronted with horrors she cannot defeat by herself.

If Stacy is not the all-conquering “final girl,” then “The Ruins” is not a slasher movie, and the rest of the group is not necessarily doomed. The second half of the film draws the focus away from the individual and towards the group—away from the “slasher” plot and towards the “zombie” plot.

I don’t want to give too much away, but in the end, it transcends both plots. Where both an individual and a group have failed, a loving relationship succeeds. The only escape from certain death comes from one person’s self-sacrifice and another’s perfect trust: a surprisingly sophisticated spiritual message from an otherwise unassuming film.

The road to that message, however, is paved with assaults upon the sensibilities.

Foul language is heard frequently—there are about twenty F-words, a handful of scatological terms, and two profane uses of Jesus’ name. At one point a character says “thank God” with bitter sarcasm.

Accidental injuries and primitive field surgery are both major parts of the plot, and they are presented unflinchingly, with realistic gore.

There are only a few scenes of person-on-person violence, but they are particularly gruesome: in three separate scenes, characters (including a child) are shot with arrows and firearms. (However, the most disturbing death—a mercy killing by one of the main characters—occurs offscreen.)

Surprisingly, “The Ruins” contains no overtly occult element; though the natives regard it with a degree of superstitious awe, the hazardous plant colony seems to be of natural origin. (As the film’s tagline puts it: “Terror has evolved.”)

The opening scenes include casual drinking (one character’s drunken flirtation later becomes a plot point). Atop the pyramid, a bottle of liquor comes in handy for innocent applications: fueling torches and sterilizing wounds.

Early scenes feature winking sexual references (including an extended—and unfunny—double entendre joke) and brief nudity (both male and female) in the context of bathing and dressing. The female characters, typically for the genre, spend much of the film half-dressed: in revealing swimwear toward the beginning, and in distressed, shredded clothing toward the end.

Despite these major caveats, I was impressed by “The Ruins.” It has good performances from a mostly unknown cast, understated music and cinematography, and (apart from a couple of dodgy CGI shots) very convincing special effects. It tells its story efficiently, refuses to glamorize its horrors, and tweaks genre conventions just enough to turn a cliché premise into a fresh, surprising entertainment with some food for thought.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—What starts off as a the usual 4 person (2 college age guys/2 college age girls) group + unsuspecting, first-to-be-killed-off-traveler-that-joins-said-group soon turns into a nightmare of biblical proportions. I didn't think I'd be cringing so much because let's face it. How bad can some ol’ stones be? Apparently muy mal as I was cringing 'n quaking in my boots big time 'cause this joyride doesn't let up. If you can handle some intense scenes and/or are looking for a well-done thriller/horror movie, check out The Ruins. Don't bother looking up a plot synopsis. Just watch it. Trust me. It'll put some hair on your chest.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jacob Keenum, age 22
Positive—I am a fan of horror films, but so many are not made from a Christian viewpoint. This movie opens with a group of unmarried young people on a fornication holiday. They get drunk and have sex with each other. It's rated R so there are some pans away, but you see more than enough. I was getting ready to walk out but decided to stay and see if it moved past this, and it did. They went into the jungle looking for a friend on an archaeological expedition at some Mayan ruins. The pyramid they found was covered by a vine with flowers. When they touched the vine, natives showed up and made them stay with the pyramid and vine, with guns and arrows to make sure they didn't leave. The vine had moving tendrils and flowers that were allegorical representations of human sex organs and their punishment for their sin earlier was realized now. I think the vine in this movie represented the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. They had sinful knowledge of one another and now were being punished by that knowledge. The vine got into their flesh and some of them even tried to cut it out of their flesh before it consumed them. The natives represented Christians who kept the evil away, from contaminating their world. In the end, unlike the book, the movie delivers redemption as one young man sacrifices himself to save a girl, and through this sacrifice she escapes, just as we can all escape our sin through the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Bobby, age 45
Negative
Negative—Even for a modern horror film, this film is poor. It seemed like a series of scenes of random actions that lead to self-inflicted mutilation or irrational surgeries. We were looking for something scary. This was just revolting.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1½
—Bill Walters, age 58
Comments from young people
Negative—This movie is a horror movie. Based on watching, it is a gross, horrific movie. I am a horror fan myself. I have seen a lot of them, but this one creeped me out. The worst thing about it is that there are torture scenes and parts where things come out of the dark and scare you. I walked out 3/4's of the way through the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jordan Smieja, age 15
Positive—I had bought the book in February and was very drawn into the novel and after finishing it I began to anticipate the release of the movie. I was a bit apprehensive hearing that the movie had switched some character plots from the movie, but knew that it wouldn't be absolutely like the book. I went to see this on it's opening night and I loved it. I like horror movies for one, and this was no exception. While I wouldn't label it “horror” par se, I thought it seemed like an integral thriller. While it doesn't have the killer-in-a-mask villain it moves along with character profiles and relies on the paranoia of the group. And even though I noticed a few drastic changes from novel to movie I managed to look past them and watch “The Ruins” in it's adapted format and thought that the changes were justifiable and helped the story for the screen.

I also have to admit that another reason I had gone to the movie is for Joe Anderson. I became a fan since watching him in “Across The Universe.” and I thought his performance was subtly brilliant. Even though he didn't have as much screen time as the others and his character spent most of the film wounded, he was able to gain the most emotion. Biased, maybe, but true.

Anyway, I loved this movie and loved that this isn't a typical “horror” film. This shows that you don't need a guy in a mask to be able to scare you during a movie. Can't wait for the DVD.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—“Nicole,” age 17
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—While I haven't seen the movie, I read the book it is based on and would not recommend the movie to anyone based on that experience. The book is morbid, creepifying, and depressing, gory, horrific, and difficult to digest.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Kev, age 34