When I saw the movie, it didn’t take long to see why DreamWorks decided to open the picture “cold” — it was just another dumb American-tourists-in-distress gorefest following in the wake of “Hostel” and “Turistas.” Not what you’d expect from a major studio release adapted from a well-regarded novel.
The combination of the exceptionally dopey tourists and the risible monster — flesh-eating plants that can talk (and mimic cellphones!) — had the crowd I saw it with at Manhattan’s AMC Empire on 42nd Street roaring with derisive laughter.
The movie was a 95-minute accounting error by the DreamWorks studio that delivered more nubile flesh (female and male) and more gross-out violence than the average R-rated horror film, but the lost U.S. college students are simply too dumb to live. By the halfway point, I wished the plants would get a move on, and finish off the almost entirely unsympathetic quartet stranded in the ancient Mexican ruins, just so that I could get out and enjoy the sunny Manhattan afternoon.
What saved the experience for me was the unusually vocal audience around me — hooting at every misstep by the college students and roaring at such dialogue as “Four American tourists just don’t disappear on vacation!” (Didn’t these kids see any of the 12,000 TV hours Nancy Grace devoted to the Natalie Holloway case in Aruba in the mid-2000s?)
The audience at the AMC was a mix of European tourists and black teens who clearly got a kick out of watching the well-heeled white American dopes stepping into traps they should have seen coming from (literally) miles away.
I have friends who loved the Scott Smith novel two years ago, but it must have had much more characterization that made the victims sympathetic and much more explanation of the monstrous vines that overtake the tourists on top of and inside what appears to be a Mayan pyramid.
Even though their Mexican driver says the area is a bad one, as he drops them off in the middle of nowhere — and they don’t seem to have a decent plan to get back to their Cancun hotel after visiting the “dig” — the Americans keep going deeper and deeper into inescapable peril.
Was “The Ruins” meant to be an Iraq war drama in horror-movie drag?