The Ruins (Dreamworks, 2008) D: Carter Smith, w/ Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker. Rating: NN; DVD package: NNN
Four 20-ish americans on vacation in Mexico stray off the beaten path and encounter a monster amid Mayan ruins.
Back in the old days, this kind of monster would show up in places like Flash Gordon serials, where it was good for two scenes: killing an extra for demonstration purposes, then threatening the heroine. It was never a scary or credible enough menace to warrant any more screen time.
Modern technology hasn’t improved matters. The monster looks real, but it just isn’t believable (and I speak as a man with an extensive Godzilla collection). This is a creature that can snatch and grab, so why does it just lie there most of the time?
The Ruins tries to end-run the monster by focusing on our heroes’ reactions, which means most of the mayhem involves them doing horrible things to each other for ostensibly good reasons. The amputation is a gore-hound’s delight.
A character-driven film about people making bad choices under stress is a good idea. This isn’t that movie, though director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt spend some of their otherwise informative commentary congratulating themselves on the fact that it is.
They’re deluded. Given the premise, our youthful quartet’s choices can have no effect on the outcome and, decent acting notwithstanding, the characters are as thinly drawn as those of any slasher flick. All hysterical yowling and not much else. Except for the gratuitous hand job. Strangely, the commentary track falls silent during that scene.
Despite the flaws, the film is an okay renter. It zips right along, cranks up a genuine sense of doom toward the end and looks great throughout.
EXTRAS Director and editor commentary, three making-of docs, alternate ending, deleted scenes. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish subtitles.