"The Ruins" has as much gore as your average horror film. But the execution of its violence is perverse, disgusting and an affront to the Freddy Kruegers and Jason Voorhees of the horror film world.
The movie follows the cliched plot of a group of young, good-looking people being dropped into a situation that methodically leads to their elimination. In this case, the group ends up in the jungles of Mexico at a Mayan temple. There they face the terror of ... killer vines.
A film starts at a disadvantage when a can or two of weed killer could end the story.
These weeds love to dine on human flesh. That's why the locals make sure anyone who steps foot in the temple doesn't get to leave. Where are the horticulturists when you need them?
It's one thing to ask an audience to recoil at the actions of a repulsive outside source. Viewers easily can relate to that kind of helpless situation. when the violence is not of the victim's making.
But creepy vines are not a credible threat. The audience has no real outside source to fear. Instead, "The Ruins" takes the vile approach of having the victims be the source of their own misery through self-mutilation and barbaric torture.
"The Ruins" is based on the popular novel by Scott Smith. But the antagonists - those pesky vines - are more threatening on paper than on film. At one point, blooms on the vine begin to mimic speech. They look like the singing flowers from "Pee-wee's Playhouse."
Director Carter Smith, who made the leap from fashion photography to this job, misses every opportunity to generate suspense and tension. He lets his cast spend most of the film on top of the ancient temple. Only briefly do they enter the structure. More time in the temple would have created the claustrophobic feel that made a movie like "The Descent" work so well.
Smith fails at every turn. Several times he accidentally shows ways this terror could be thwarted. But he ignores each to keep the thin plot creeping along until one of his players can start hacking at his or her own flesh.
There's plenty of demand for movies that give the viewer an Adrenalin rush. The only rush from "The Ruins" should be to the box office, to demand a refund.
See the trailer and find local showtimes for "The Ruins."