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I read the book a while back, and loved it to pieces. I'd still consider it the best book I've read in the last year, and it easily makes my top 5 horror novels of all time. I can't say anything of the like for the film adaptation, but I do think it's made well enough to be worthwhile for horror fans. The film gets most of the events right, in the right order, although some of them happen to alternate characters. But without being able to go into the characters minds, the film suffers. The mental anguish they go through in the book, is what makes it so terrific.

I don't think it's any secret who or what the villain in this story is now, it's right there on the poster, so I'll just go ahead and talk about it. I wasn't sure they would be able to make killer vines scary, it's a pretty ridiculous idea, even for a a book, but the filmmakers managed to pull it off. They do the smart thing and keep them in the dark for the first act, but this is the rare horror film that takes place mostly during the day. The thing that makes the vines so scary is that they have infinite time and patience. They wait until the victim is asleep or incapacitated to attack. The way they crawl right into the flesh, through the smallest of cuts, feeding on you from the inside out, is a wonderfully creepy idea.

Four young friends are vacationing in Mexico, they befriend a young German man, whose brother has disappeared in the jungle, looking for some ruins with a girl. Hoping for a bit of adventure before heading back to school, the friends follow the German to the ruins. A group of locals try to scare them away from the site, but once one of the girls has touched the vines, they're forced to stay at gunpoint. Unable to leave and unable to find the others who came before them, they're forced to just wait it out, while they slowly discover why there are only bones left and why they can only wait around to die. Things get worse, when the German falls down a shaft, becoming paralyzed from the waste down. The scene where the two guys try to amputate his legs with a rock, is the best scene in the film, and one of the most gruesome scenes in recent memory.

The film has much better acting than your typical teen-horror film, they're really able to sell the pure terror of the situation. Jena Malone, who is one of the best young actresses around, I've been following her career since she played a young Jodie Foster in Contact, stars as Amy. Jonathon Tucker is good as Jeff, a pre-med student, who fancies himself as the only one who can get them out of this horrific situation. Laura Ramsey, who I don't remember in anything before this, gets the toughest role of Stacy, she goes through the most torture in the group. Shawn Ashmore, who I only just realized played Iceman in the X-Men, is fine as Eric, doesn't do anything special, but doesn't mess anything up either.

I think this is the only time I'll ever make the recommendation to read the book before seeing the film, so you can bring the character's thoughts to the actions that go on around them.
I was able to enjoy the film on a whole other level, thinking about their internal tortures, while having their external ones visualized for me. Without reading the book, the movie lacks something, it's mainly violence for violence sake, but it's so well done that I can recommend it even without the full story. Film grade without reading the book: Grade C - With the book: Grade B (Seen on 7/13/08)

3 Responses to The Ruins:

  1. I thought the movie was pretty bad. Then I read the book, watched the movie and liked it a little better. I just wish I had read the book first!

  1. Hey Ross,
    I was actually wondering why you didn't send me a link. Something must have gotten mixed up. Send me the link again, leave it as a comment on my page, and I'll post it. Sorry about that!

  1. I can only sum up The Ruins with what I wrote in my own review.

    But alas, as I said before, these American "The Hills-like" teenagers got what they deserved for not listening. They should have been shopping at Hollister and Pacific Sunwear, but instead they got massacred by some vines.

    Plants 1
    Dumb American white teenagers 0

    Yay plants.

    -the jaded viewer