The idea of being in a foreign environment, unfamiliar with your surroundings can be overwhelming. Add getting kidnapped, stranded, lost, etc. into the picture and I can only assume that it would turn your vacation into a nightmare. We all hear the stories in the news of average young people disappearing while on vacation, it could really happen to anyone. Perhaps this is why this formula is what makes travel-based horror movies so fun and effective for me.
The Ruins follows such a story. Four young, good-looking friends are enjoying some fun in the sun on their Mexican holiday. While sitting poolside sipping on breezers, they meet a German traveler named Mathias (Joe Anderson) who convinces them to join him on an excursion to some hidden Mayan ruins. Looking for something to do other than the typical touristy stuff, the group accepts.
Our main characters are fairly stereotypical, though well acted. Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), a medical school student is the most excited about the journey despite reluctance by his somewhat slovenly girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone). The other couple, Stacy and Eric (Laura Ramsey and Shawn Ashmore) are less interesting, but still credible. There is some decent relationship drama thrown in that feels fairly realistic, which does well to counter the high tension at-each-others-throats arguments that soon ensue when things get weird at the ruins.
The suspense in this movie works very well. When our group arrives to the ruins, they are angrily greeted by the locals, who refuse to let them leave. The reason for the hostile greeting is slowly revealed, and it’s revelation is awesomely shocking, albeit slightly silly at first. I don’t want to give anything away, but I do have to applaud this concept and how they pulled it off in a serious manner without oozing cheese.
The movie for me has some genuinely creepy moments. Imagining myself in the mind of a tourist, stranded in strange ruins being prevented from leaving by a group of armed men who just murdered a small child in front of me literally feels like a terrifying situation to be in. Everything in The Ruins worked well for me, from the acting, great suspense, and the effects. There were a few somewhat silly moments, but even they still add to the memorability of this film. Afterall, with storylines such as this that rely heavily on mythology and somewhat supernatural elements, you kind of have to let your mind go.
I strongly feel that The Ruins is one of the better modern horror flicks to come out. It’s a well written piece that is original while at the same time makes use of proven scare tactics and plot elements.