I know it’s cliché to describe a scary movie as “doing for ________ what Jaws did for water” but I love clichés, and The Ruins really did make me feel a little iffy about plants. The morning after watching it, I had to walk to work at about 4:30 in the morning. All of the trees hanging over the sidewalk, and even the long-ish grass in the field I walk through had me on edge. The most incredible thing about this movie is that it has, as its antagonist, what has every right to be the most bat-shit absurd villain: killer plants, but it nonetheless makes this threat credible, unsettling, and more than a little scary. Laugh if you want, but once you see Laura Ramsey getting vines extracted from under her skin, you’ll be freaked too.
The Ruins’ success is further promoted because of its absolute hopelessness. Not unlike Quarantine, the characters find themselves in a situation, where no matter what they do, they are supremely boned. They are atop a Mayan temple, with killer plants inside; starvation, infection, and insanity atop; and brutal, insulating Mayans on the outside. Each of them will kill you, without any obvious solution. Every time someone comes up with a plan or finds an opportunity to get help, something brutal happens to destroy any semblance of hope.
As far as horror movies go, The Ruins refuses to simply accept and follow conventional structure. There are certainly familiar elements, but these are characters that are intelligent enough to talk about what they’re going to do before doing it. Once you throw building insanity into the mix, this naturally starts to come apart, but it’s nice to see people who aren’t just behaving like horror characters normally would. That being said, with the inevitable character deaths, they happen in an order that punishes you for getting attached to the more interesting characters. If anyone is exotic, interesting, or anything other than the bland main couple, they are the first to go. Thankfully, most of the offing happens in the third act anyway, so you get to hold onto your favourites for as long as possible before their ultimate demises. Besides, this is one of those cases where it isn’t really who it’s happening to that matters. Even with semi-interesting characters in the mix, putting anyone in that absolutely screwed situation is bound to produce compelling, and terrifying results.