The Ruins starts with the typical premise of standard slasher-horror-fayre; a group of nice, naive, corn-fed American tourists wander off the beaten track and into the arms of particularly gruesome and bloody danger. The difference though is that the predatory threat here is not a mad-eyed axemurderer, but a land-locked island of mobile, talkative, carnivorous plants.
It sounds ludicrous, it is ludicrous, but The Ruins is saved by the utter conviction with which the four American leads – including the wonderful Jena Malone and angular Jonathan Tucker – carry out their roles. Their collective descent from drunken frivolity through nagging unease (sharpened by tequila hangovers) to shock to panic to absolute fear and ultimately madness is believably handled, and the choices they make (leg-chopping aside) feel honest, even if their characters are only lightly sketched by the script.
It’s a beautifully lit film – the cinematography is all bleached and intense. The plant is pretty scary, but that’s matched by the apparently blank inhumanity of the Mayan villagers who won’t let them leave. I also liked the fact that movie’s violence / horror (again, leg-chopping aside) happens so quickly, so violently and so horrifically, that you are left gasping. The Ruins does those flickers of nastiness – “did I really see that?” – really well.
Interestingly, The Ruins was filmed on the Gold Coast in Australia, though you’d probably never tell.