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Movie Review

Those Mayans.

It wasn't enough for them to forge an advanced civilization in the midst of hostile jungles. It wasn't enough to build massive pyramids or create elaborate calendars or dabble in the occasional human sacrifice.

No. They had to go and make their roughage mad.

Or so one can only assume while watching The Ruins, a movie in which pretty, clueless twentysomething tourists are hunted, infected and eaten by bloodthirsty vines.

If these leafy monsters were in the same jungle Tarzan lived in, the poor guy would have one day been gobbled up in mid-swing, an abbreviated yodel hanging heavily in the humid air ("Aaaaayayayayaaay—crunch, slurp").

Thankfully for Tarzan, these vines live only on and in an unexcavated Mayan pyramid—one that, needless to say, isn't on the tourist trail. In fact, most living things know better than to mess with the vines. Bees don't visit their delicate flowers. Birds don't lay eggs among their leaves. The native human populace—Mayan descendants who live nearby—salt the ground around the pyramid and, for good measure, kill anyone who comes in contact with the fiendish foliage.

But no matter: The vines, resilient little suckers that they are, simply wait for pretty, clueless twentysomethings to amble by.

Sure enough, four American vacationers (best friends Amy and Stacy and their boyfriends, Jeff and Eric) and a couple of European interlopers happen upon the ruins. None of them originally planned to visit the place: Most were far more interested in wearing a path between their hotel pool and the beach with occasional detours to the nearest bar. But when they hear about a spectacular hidden pyramid, they decide to check the place out.

"As long as I'm back for make-your-own-taco night," says Eric.

Alas, Eric misses his taco night.


Positive Elements

The tourists, most of whom start this adventure as fairly shallow loafers, forge a bit of depth and courage as the days go by, and one goes so far as to risk making the ultimate sacrifice.

Spiritual Content

Clearly these vacationers could've used a little more time in Sunday school. I'd imagine even celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins would loft a prayer to the heavens if he was suddenly confronted by aggressive, carnivorous plants. This crew? Not a peep.

Sexual Content

The American tourists apparently came to Mexico for the sun, the sand and the sex. Audiences see a fully nude Stacy (particularly her bare rear and breasts) get dressed in front of boyfriend Eric, who convinces her to take a quick roll in the hay with him after she throws on some clothes. (Audiences see the proposition, but not the sex.)

Jeff and Amy also are apparently on intimate terms, but Amy nevertheless does her best to stray, making a drunken proposition to Mathias, a handsome German tourist. The would-be tryst doesn't go unnoticed by Stacy and Eric, who make bets on what Amy will do to/with the German.

The vines' flowers can mimic a whole range of sounds for some reason. And they use their freakish power to convince Stacy that Amy and Eric are having an affair, which makes her extremely and profanely angry.

Both Stacy and Amy wear revealing bikinis. Stacy spends a good chunk of the film running around in a skimpy top and panties.

Violent Content

The vines are messy eaters.

Their first entrée is Mathias who, of all the characters, really should've stayed at the hotel. First he falls into the heart of the pyramid and breaks his back. He endures significant agony when Amy and Stacy sloppily lift him onto a makeshift stretcher. But the worst comes when he realizes that his useless legs are being eaten by vines. It's a gruesome scene for both the tourists and moviegoers—who see the German's legs in various states of gore. Jeff, who's in medical school, decides he must amputate Mathias' legs.

Don't worry, he tells Mathias. You won't feel a thing.

This is what passes for a joke in The Ruins, because the German suffers excruciating pain when Jeff smashes the leg bones with a huge rock, then slowly saws the legs off with a small knife, cauterizing the wounds with a hot frying pan. Mathias whimpers in pain as the vines pull the amputated limbs into their greedy green folds. Unfortunately, the whole procedure really just buys the German a few more hours of life: The vines later claim the rest of him, diving into his mouth and nose like snakes, killing him.

Another tourist gets infected by the vine, and we see the tendrils worm underneath her skin. Fresh off his stunning success with Mathias, Jeff decides to operate again, cutting deeply into her flesh, digging around with his fingers and pulling squirming tendrils from her body. (Audiences see it all.) The operation isn't completely successful, so the addled patient decides to give it another go herself. Her friends find her standing in a pool of her own blood, cutting pieces of her leg off in search for more roots. She eventually begs for someone to kill her—a favor the survivors reluctantly do.

Now that you, dear reader, and I are both ready to skip dinner for a week, I'll wrap up this section quickly. Much more quickly than this film wraps things up: One Mayan villager shoots three people in the head with a handgun, including a little boy. The villagers also shoot arrows, and at least two folks wind up falling victim to them. One vacationer fatally stabs another in the chest. Another tourist gets a nasty cut on his hand, and still another falls into the pyramid pit, sending a piece of glass into her thigh. Gruesome corpses are seen wrapped in vines.

Crude or Profane Language

Characters use the f-word (and we don't mean "flora") more than 30 times, and the s-word about another five. They also misuse both God's and Jesus' names, and spice up their conversations with milder swears.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Everybody drinks more than their fair share of beer before they leave for the pyramid, and we see Amy fall down into the sand because she's so drunk. We also see Amy the next morning, hung over, cradling the toilet. There's not a lot of time to drink once the party gets to the pyramid, but injured folks are often given a swig of tequila to take the edge off the pain before Jeff operates.

Other Negative Elements

Stacy refuses to drink anything with ice at the resort because "the water system [in Mexico] is contaminated with human feces." One victim, while undergoing a painful operation, also suffers the indignity of a runny nose. Jeff urinates on a patch of vines. Two people vomit offscreen.


Though one might think that The Ruins, which is based on the best-selling book by Scott Smith, doesn't have much of a moral, there are actually several: One, if you're a pretty, clueless twentysomething, avoid vacations. Two, if you insist on traveling, stay clear of Mayan ruins. Three, if you must go to a Mayan ruin, be sure to pack a set of rugged gardening gloves.

This film is actually nothing more than an excuse to watch people drink, curse, get naked, scream, bleed and die—one of dozens of such films released every year, catering to an audience that never seems to tire of the formula. It's a pretty typical example of much of modern-day horror, a genre in which too often cheaply made films are churned out like sausages for indiscriminate viewers.

Indeed, perhaps the most shocking thing that can be said about this movie is that movies like this no longer shock.

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