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Ruining the Lesson

Retro Review: The Ruins

However undead I am, I am still human, and as such I don't get to every movie in a timely fashion for review. Efrit and I weren't even commissioned for this horror film review assignment when many great and otherwise reviewable horror movies came out, so occasionally we find it necessary to review an older movie when the opportunity presents itself. And while this isn't a very old film, it is worth taking a look at.

If I were to tell you about a horror movie that had a group of teenagers trapped on a sacrificial pyramid with a blood-thirsty plant that had to be crudely removed from the body in a surgical-like fashion, doesn't that sound like a bloody good time? Well it is!...and it isn't. The Ruins manages to be all of these things previously mentioned, and yet find lulls in its runtime that kill the momentum and have you constantly questioning the motives and logic of characters.

Let's start with motive. From the tribe that traps the kids on the pyramid right down to the killer plants they fear, there are few motives that make sense in this film. We'll plow through this by simply asking some basic questions: If these plants are so dangerous and the tribe doesn't seem interested in purposefully sacrificing to them, why don't they just throw torches into the plants and burn them up? Once our teens figure out that these plants are hungry for flesh, why don't they move the wounded further away from the plants and keep a closer eye on them (or why did they leave the wounded so far away from everyone else in the first place)? If the plants are able to infect bodies and are powerful enough to drag away victims, why do they seem content on waiting out starvation or the possibility of escape/death on the salt [that they can't spread onto]? Just some questions to ask...

The plants themselves are such an interesting concept that seem a little ill-executed in the end. The ability for the plants to mimic sounds through the flower pedals, and the cinematic execution of this trait, is definitely the highlight of the film. It is the part in which you feel the most dread, and it happens to be when the deadly plants are the most active. Unfortunately, to that last point, the relatively dormant plants lose their luster with every creeping moment as they seem like less of a threat than the bow-and-arrow-wielding people surrounding the pyramid, and far-less threatening than the inevitable dehydration awaiting the unscathed. It is sad when you consider these plants less intimidating than the fauna conjured in Jumanji.

The plants' invasive, parasitic-like behavior inside the body leads to the more horror-oriented and gruesome scenes of the movie, with various amputations and lacerations to go around. Of course, this incredibly volatile and fertile plant-life, with its carnivorous diet, has led the surrounding people to alienate any who go near or touch the plants. This led me to be hung up on how exactly this ancient people was able to isolate the plant life in and on the pyramid. With such a lush climate and environment, it seems unlikely that even the well-devised plan of surrounding the pyramid in salt would not be enough to contain the plant. Or, even more curious, is how the plant was contained to the pyramid to begin with. The only theory I could think of was that the sacrifices done on the pyramid led to the adaptation or mystical manifestation of this particular species of plant from within the pyramid and the plant was immediately contained. Of course, this conjecture was thoroughly processed in my mind between the dull moments of the film.

The Ruins is equal parts unique and unoriginal, satisfying and wanting, horrific and bland. Given those contradictory qualities, it is difficult in the end to determine whether one enjoyed it or not, or whether one could recommend it. I lean on the side of recommending, if only for the intrigue the concept presents, but setting expectations too high may lead to excessive disappointment.

Horror Qualifier: 9/10

Horror Quality: 7/10

Film Quality: 5/10

© 2020 Sickle and Efrit | Dalton Vanhooser & Kyle Hagan