The Ruins (2008)

MARCH 26, 2008


If there is one plotline that doesn’t hold much promise, it’s “Four college kids are attacked by killer vines. That talk.” And if you want to sell it extremely short, that’s exactly what The Ruins is. But as it turns out, not only is it much better than expected, it’s the best horror movie of the year so far. Take THAT, One Missed Call!

The movie is based on a book (by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay) that I haven’t read, and is directed by a guy I’ve never heard of (Carter Smith), and stars some folks who don’t often star in anything. And like I said, the plot didn’t really hold much promise. But everyone involved gave it their all; an A-Game approach to a B-Movie. The surprising R rating is well-earned, with some truly brutal and shocking moments (such as the first onscreen child killing in a horror movie in ages! YEAH! The movie’s got some goddamn balls!), and some truly impressive (but thankfully sparse) gore as well.

It’s also the rare survival horror film in which actual survival elements are implemented. 30 Days Of Night completely botched this part up, with a 30 day time window seeming more like 30 hours, partially due to the fact that getting food/water was never once an issue in the film. Not the case here; we see them rationing their limited food, crafting stretchers and such out of what they have on hand, etc. The main character, Jeff (well played by Jonathan Tucker, making up for his annoying performance in Bruce’s Hostage) is the most practical of the four, and watching him use his head and think things through was very refreshing.

The other three are good too. Jena Malone starts off as an annoying and whiny drunk, but comes into her own as things get worse for the group. Shawn Ashmore (Iceman!) and Laura Ramsey are the other two, also impressively more than just attractive kids in a horror movie. There are no stereotypes – they are all intelligent (and about equally “famous”), which makes it far more difficult than usual to peg which ones are going to be goners.

Smith also did a fine job of translating what has to be the silliest part of the book (besides the concept itself) onto the screen – the talking vines. Like I said, I haven’t read it, but those who did have told me that this was something that wouldn’t work onscreen. But I think it does, to a degree. The vines don’t talk in a traditional sense, like Audrey II or whatever, but instead mimic the sounds they hear, which include human voices. Apparently it was a bit streamlined from the book, but it seems natural, and is only used twice (to disturbing effect) in the film to boot. It’s nowhere near as disastrous as William Goldman’s attempts to visualize the “memory warehouse” in Dreamcatcher, something that was actually pretty awesome in the book but wholly idiotic when seen on screen.

The movie also contains one of my favorite lines in recent memory. When the kids are all despairing that they will die out there, Jeff tries to calm them by exclaiming “Four American tourists don’t just disappear!” Oh man. I lost it. Of course, the film had already reminded me of the sadly underrated Turistas (during the opening 20 minutes), and anyone familiar with these types of movies should enjoy the line as much as I did.

I should also point out that I saw the film on the Paramount lot. On the way to the screening room, I saw a building with a sign reading “Film Vault”. You can bet your sweet bippy that I wanted nothing more than to bust my way into that place, find the My Bloody Valentine footage that they cut for MPAA, and run off into the night, armed with the knowledge that I was doing the entire horror community a giant favor. BUT, I didn’t.

Please go see this movie, and not Prom Night. They are opening around the same time, and I would really really hate for Hollywood to get the message (again) that an unnecessary PG-13 remake is somehow a better financial investment than an intelligent, suspenseful, and at times downright disturbing horror movie. Come on now.

What say you?


  1. Good to hear that this was a well done film; I loved the book, and I too thought the talking vines aspect would be botched if not completely left out of the film. Hopefully, Scott Smith won't take so long between books because between this and "A Simple Plan" he can write great novels that become good films.

    As for "Turistas," I found the last twenty minutes or so to be fairly well done, but the rest of it I thought sucked. To each his own I guess. Can't wait to see this one though.

  2. Personally I thought the book was very overrated; I had no problem putting it down and more trouble picking it up again (unlike Simple Plan, a terrific book). It's good, and memorable in its way, but not very compelling. IMHO. Hope the movie is better.

  3. The director Carter Smith's only other film was a 35-minute short called "Bugcrush," which is one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen.

  4. Nice review. I was worried about the film because the studio held off from press screenings until literally the last minute (late Thursday night). Good to hear it turned out okay.

    However, I think you're wrong about this being the first on-screen child death in ages. That honor goes to Dario Argento's MOTHER OF TEARS, which came out in Italy last October. I deal with that in "Lambs to the Slaughter," accessible through the URL link.

  5. THIS IS AMERICA, PAL!!! Hahaha. Why is it taking so long to come out here, I wonder? Very excited to see it. And with a dead kid? A+!

  6. Hey My Dad called me today and said the Herald mentioned a review on Bloody-D about this movie. I haven't seen it, and I don't normally go to the D. Might it be yours?

  7. I doubt it... i don't think they ran my review.

  8. saw it tonight-- i really liked it. i like when the "monster" (so to speak" is organic, not just some scary dude hanging out in mexico or whatever-- it seriously gave me the creeps. the girl carving at herself-- amazing.

    we picked up the book tonight, i'll give it a whirl sooner or later. i was happy to see a good movie for once IN THEATERS!

  9. Tell me how the book is. I almost bought it today but I was torn between the 15 dollar big, sort of flimsy paperpack and the 8 dollar old-style small and too thick paperback. I decided on neither.

    Also JB - it's Brad's review probably, because they use his quotes on the TV spot.

  10. I loved this movie!! Had everything you said plus "Rock, Knife, Frying Pan" :) I laughed when he said that ridiculous line about disappearing tourists - just me and my friend in the theater (sadly) so we could chat a little during it too. Had a few gringe-worthy moments and decent acting. That doesn't seem to happen all the time in the horror genre ;)

  11. I have been guiltily curious about this movie as I really did love the novel (I actually kind of canceled a date so I could finish reading it). ;) Your review makes it sound aptly handled, so I think I will rent it a little sooner than I thought.


  12. Got to see this on video and was pretty disappointed. Having read the book I even tried to seperate the two. But to quote the Simpsons:"It's just a bunch of stuff that happened" The attention to detail was one of the hold overs from the book. Half of the story is just how the need stay alive with rainwater and preserving the food and such. The subtleness of the handjob scene, no joke intended, seemed a little lost in the movie, except to provide the sex noises for later. In the book, the greek is the one who gets hurt, and the german guy is played as the foil, I think story wise it was missing that. I don't know, I just wasn't satisified. I also did not care much for these folks, so a la The Descent, I wish they all would have died up there.

  13. just saw it! finally!

    this movie was GREAT! I loved all the stuff in the movie. must own!

    Now im working on getting the novel to read it.

    I think the voice mimicing was well done, and creepy..considering we figured it out the about the same time the entire group did and the surprised look with the repeating surrounding cries was great!

  14. Thought this was the best new idea for a horror flick in ages!!! I could easily imagine the plant growing and thriving in human tissue. Gave me huge heebie jeebies all the way home...

  15. woohoo killer plants. great concept, reminded me of a t.v. series in the late 70's early 80's called "day of the triffids" which scared the shit out of me when i was a lil nipper, which i'm glad to hear the bbc are now remaking it! watch out for that one, and i believe is also based on book. i think there was also a version done in the 60's that is in public domain. check it out!

  16. Surprisingly, the vines talking works pretty well in the book, and the author is GREAT at describing violence is repulsive ways. But the rest of the book is not very good.

    The lead-up to the stranding is okay but overly long, considering you already know basically what's coming. But once the kids are stuck, there are only 2 ways for the story to end, and every aspect of the ending could easily be predicted my the mid-point.

    Overall, it could have been a very good short story.


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget