The mainstream horror genre in Hollywood is in poor shape at the moment. Cinema screens are choked with either poor remakes of interesting Asian horror films (such as One Missed Call or The Eye) or poor remakes of forgettable 1980s horror films (such as Prom Night). Therefore, a film like The Ruins is somewhat refreshing, for the simple fact that it’s an original adapation of a novel (wholly original contemporary horror films seem extremely rare at the moment). Even that said, however, The Ruins does feel similar to some recent horror films and doesn’t quite manage to make a memorable impact.
The Ruins appears to be the next in a growing series of films about young Americans in peril abroad. We’ve seen the same thing recently in Hostel and Turistas; these films always seem to feature selfish and ignorant characters, seemingly unlikeable. Normal standards of audience identification don’t seem to apply to films like this, however. The characters seem incidental, purely the targets of the violence in the film. The worse a character appears, the worse their punishment will be (either directly or indirectly). The violence in this film is pretty gruesome and is almost wholly generated from within.
The most interesting element of this film is the conflict. As opposed to most horror films where external forces act against the main characters, the majority of the conflict in The Ruins is internal. The two main antagonist agents (the Mayans and the pyramid) are secondary to the damage the protagonists amongst themselves. Even the main threat in the film (the vines) seems like an afterthought, with occasionally laughable physical and special effects (some of the sequences looked like a man moving around in a leafy vine suit).
I’ll give the film credit for relative originality and for ruthless visuals (most of the gore sequences are impressive and disturbing). The acting is decent, though not remarkable (Joe Anderson’s German accent is a bit ropey at times and there are a few over-the-top moments). Although there’s nothing of much substance to this film, there’s nothing horrible either. The Ruins is a gruesome little horror film, easily forgotten but entertaining in the moment.