The Ruins

A group of attractive turistas venture deep into the heart of ancient Mayan country and barely live to regret it in this grisly adaptation of Scott B. Smith's bestselling shocker. Med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), his whiny girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone), her best friend Stacy (Laura Ramsey), and Stacy's boyfriend Eric (Shawn Ashmore) are poolside at...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A group of attractive turistas venture deep into the heart of ancient Mayan country and barely live to regret it in this grisly adaptation of Scott B. Smith's bestselling shocker.

Med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), his whiny girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone), her best friend Stacy (Laura Ramsey), and Stacy's boyfriend Eric (Shawn Ashmore) are poolside at a Mexican resort enjoying the penultimate day of their vacation when they meet Mathias (Joe Anderson), a tourist from Munich who's about to head deep into the Mexican interior to look for his brother, Heinrich. He left a few days earlier with a pretty archeologist on an expedition to an ancient Mayan ruin so remote it doesn't even appear in any guide book, and Heinrich should have been back by now. Luckily, he left his brother with a map, and when Mathias asks if his new American friends would all like to join him and a Greek acquaintance (Dimitri Baveas) in the search, Jeff, Eric and Stacy jump at the chance to do something other than eat, drink and sunbathe. Amy, who only wants nurse her hangover, needs a little convincing. After a bus ride into the countryside and a small bribe to a local taxi driver to drive them to within walking distance of the site ("This place no good!" he says, pointing at the map -- not a good sign), the intrepid explorers are left on their own. They have a little trouble finding the path to the ruin -- it seems to have been deliberately hidden by carefully placed branches and bush -- but after a slog through thick jungle, they enter a wide clearing and realize they've finally reached their destination: a large, stepped Mayan temple that's almost completely covered in thick, green vines. There's a bright yellow tent pitched at the very top but no one answers their call, but they're not exactly alone: The residents of a nearby village have come out in full force, and they're armed. Since no one speaks Mayan, the startled sightseers have no way of knowing why they seem so adamant that no one step foot on the ancient site. When Amy ventures a little too close, the locals suddenly change tact, and instead of trying to shoo everyone away, they now force them up the side of the ancient structure while making it perfectly clear that anyone attempting to leave will be shot by arrow, bullet or both. With nowhere else to go and no cell-phone service to call for help, they have no choice but to climb their way to the top where something very old -- and far more dangerous than the Mayans down below -- is waiting for them.

Written by Scott Smith himself and directed by Carter Smith, the fashion photographer-turned-director who previously made the memorably creepy Cronenberg-meets-Van Sant short "Bugcrush," the film compresses the book's slowly building horror into a fast-paced,90-minute thrill ride, jettisoning atmosphere and psychological terror in favor of graphic amputations, impromptu surgery and self-mutilation. Smith has changed a few plot points around to keep readers who already know the secret of the ruins guessing, and to some extent the strategy works. There was, however, no reason whatsoever to change the book's perfect endings. Whether the result of angry test audiences who don't like downbeat denouements, or just another misguided "improvement," the new finale undoes the book's sense of terrible inexorability and relegates a promising premise to just another bloody horror movie.

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  • Released: 2008
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A group of attractive turistas venture deep into the heart of ancient Mayan country and barely live to regret it in this grisly adaptation of Scott B. Smith's bestselling shocker. Med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), his whiny girlfriend Amy (Jena Malon… (more)

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