Terror has evolved. Horror films have not.
What is it this week?
First, we get the uncharted "Nim's Island." Then, we get a bunch of teens partying down at an uncharted Mayan temple in "The Ruins," a horror film so destined for greatness that it wasn't screened for critics.
With a screenplay from previous Oscar nominee Scott B. Smith ("A Simple Plan") based upon his own novel, "The Ruins" practically defines the "functional" horror film.
Virtually every character in "The Ruins" fits a stereotype. You want the pretty girl who doesn't want to go? We have her here. How about the wild guy who always seems to get killed first in these films? Yep, he's here too. What about the psycho locals? Yep, got em'.
The characters are typical, the storyline is predictable, the pseudo sci-fi gimmick is half-baked and the suspense is, well, not really that suspenseful.
Is "The Ruins" a bad film?
No, not really.
Is "The Ruins" a good film?
Worst of all, "The Ruins" is a nondescript film.
"The Ruins" stars Jena Malone ("Saved") and Laura Ramsey ("The Covenant") as two American girls on vacation with their boyfriends (Shawn Ashmore and Jonathan Tucker) at a Mexican resort who encounter some locals who offer them a trip to the aforementioned uncharted Mayan ruin.
Of course, it wouldn't be a horror film if everything went as planned. Don't worry, it doesn't.
Darius Khondji's camera work certainly helps enhance the film's creepiness, however, silly dialogue abounds and the characters are so thinly drawn that their fate never really matters that much.
Directed by Carter Smith, no relation to the screenwriter, "The Ruins" is perhaps most noteworthy for the odd tidbit that Ben Stiller signed on as one of its executive producers. I chuckled as I wondered if, perhaps, the Mayan ruins were leftovers from "Night at the Museum."
Slightly better than most films that don't screen for critics, "The Ruins" is still a remarkable disappointment given Smith's stellar script for "A Simple Plan."
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic