Remember Jaws? Remember what it did to trips to the shore? Of course you do. Well, this movie is the Jaws for Mexican vacations...and pumpkin vines.Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, The Ruins, directed by Carter Smith, focuses on four college kids on a getaway in Cancun: Amy (Jena Malone), her best friend Stacy (Laura Ramsey), Amy's boyfriend Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), and Stacy's boyfriend Eric (Shawn Ashmore). At the hotel they meet Mathias, a German vacationing with his brother Heinrich. The four Americans travel with Mathias to some ancient Mayan ruins in search of Heinrich, who travelled there with an archeologist a few days ago and never returned. However, some Mayans arrive and drive the group up the ruins after Amy steps in some of the vines covering it. Now Amy, Stacy, Jeff, Eric, and Mathias are trapped by the Mayans on top of the ruins with little food, little water, and an enemy with the power to destroy them from the inside out. The actors in this movie all do a very good job portraying their characters convincingly; it probably helps that all of them read the novel. However, the characters they play have changed quite a bit in transition from page-to-screen; in fact (and I think this is what bothers me most about the film), they've become exactly what they deconstructed in the novel, falling into more stereotypical and cliched roles. Some characters have also been blended with others from the book: Stacy is a composite of Eric and Stacy from the novel, Mathias is mixed with Pablo (a Greek who plays a significant role in the book but is killed within the first 20 minutes of the film) and Mathias, and Eric is mixed with Mathias and Eric. Before I move on, I just want to say a quick word about Eric. In the novel, Eric's character struggles with cutting and obsession involving the film's antagonist, making him vital to the story. However, that role is given to Stacy in the film, making Eric virtually useless and forgettable. The setting of the film is absolutely gorgeous. It's filmed in Australa in the winter even though it takes place in Mexico in the summer, but you can't even tell since the special effects team did a wonderful job making the actors look all sweaty and grimy. The movie uses minimal CGI, which makes it all the more real: all of the vines are hand done, and all of the gore is real (well, real in the sense that it's not CGI). I also really like the camera techniques used in the film. The high angle camera shot of the group when they're on top of the ruins makes them seem that much more vulnerable, and the long shot of Stacy during the climax of her conflict makes the scene that much more horrifying. The novel The Ruins is over 300 pages long; obviously not all of it can be represented onscreen. Only the most important scenes are transferred over, and that's fine. The most obivous change is the ending, with the movie opting for a slightly more optimistic one than the book. However, the movie's ending also turns it into an "or is it?" ending while the novel's ending is pretty straightforward.
With this movie, you either like it or loathe it. Most critics panned it, mainly for the excess of gore. But other people, like Stephen King, really liked it. I think if you like King's works, you'll like this movie and do your best to overlook its faults. I personally enjoyed it, even if it's not as good as the book, and think it's very underrated.