The Ruins is a 2008 horror film directed by Carter Smith which stars Jonathan Tucker, Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, and Joe Anderson. Released in 2008, the American-Australian co-production is based on the novel of the same name by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay.
Two young American couples (Jeff and Amy, and Eric and Stacy) on vacation in Mexico make friends with a German tourist, Mathias, and decide to help him look for his brother, Heinrich. Heinrich had met a female archaeologist and followed her to an archaeological dig at a remote Mayan ruin in the jungle but has not been seen since. Dimitri, a friend of Mathias, joins the bus journey to the Mayan site using a crude map drawn by Heinrich.
When the group reaches the ruins, Mayan villagers appear with guns and bows. Mathias tries to tell them they're looking for his brother, but the villagers do not understand Spanish or English. Amy backs into some shrubbery growing on the ruin and the villagers become crazed and aggressive, shouting at them. Dimitri approaches the villagers with the hope of appeasing them, but he is instead killed. The rest of the group flees up the steps of the ruins to escape the Mayans.
At the top they find an abandoned camp and a shaft in the center leading down. The group cannot call for help since Eric's phone has no signal and the Mayans now have the other. They hear a cell phone ringing from somewhere inside the ruins. Mathias says he is certain it's his brother's ringtone and is lowered down. However, the rope breaks and he falls, becoming paralyzed at the bottom of the shaft.
Meanwhile, Amy and Jeff descend the temple steps hoping to reason with the Mayans, but to no success. In anger, Amy throws a clump of vines at them and hits a young boy, leading the Mayans to shoot him. They realize the Mayans are afraid of the vines, and the Mayans won't let them go since they have touched them. Later, Stacy and Amy descend the shaft to help Mathias and to find the phone. Jeff and Eric rig a backboard and bring Mathias out of the shaft.
The next morning, Stacy observes a tendril of vine has crept into a wound on her leg during the night. The vines have also wrapped themselves around Mathias's lower legs and eaten them down to the bone. Eric and Jeff are barely able to remove the vines from Stacy but cannot get them off of Mathias.
The cell phone is heard again from deep in the shaft so Stacy and Amy descend again. In a small, vine-covered room, the two find the body of the young archaeologist as well as her broken phone. Amy discovers that the flowers of the vine are vibrating and screeching, reproducing the ring of the phone. As she goes to touch one, the vines attack and the two barely manage to escape.
The group now realizes that the vines are predatory and witness the Mayans salting the soil around the hill. While the others want to try to escape, Jeff insists that help is on the way since they haven't checked out of their hotel and will miss their flight. After some more arguing, they all hesitantly agree to wait.
With Mathias' condition getting worse, Jeff amputates both his legs saying Mathias will die of an infection otherwise. Stacy becomes jealous at Eric comforting a distraught Amy, accusing them of having sex claiming that she overheard Amy moaning (most likely replicated by the vines). While the four argue, the vines suffocate Mathias by going down his throat.
Paranoid that the vines are inside her, Stacy begins to slash herself in an attempt to remove them. When Eric tries to stop her, she fatally stabs him. Overcome with remorse, Stacy begs Amy to kill her. Stacy is heard screaming, continuing to beg them to kill her and her screams abruptly stop.
Realizing they'll eventually die, Jeff makes a plan for Amy to escape. He smears Stacy's blood all over her, then carries her to the bottom of the temple and lays her on the ground, making her appear to be dead. Jeff then approaches the Mayans, leading them away from Amy's 'body' in the hopes of distracting them â" which leads to the Mayans shooting him down with arrows. After a signal from Jeff, Amy gets up and escapes through the jungle with the Mayans chasing after her. Narrowly missing arrows and gunfire, Amy reaches the Jeep, which thankfully starts after a few failed attempts and furiously, elatedly drives away. Meanwhile Jeff is executed by the Mayan leader in a form of mercy killing.
Some time later, Dimitri's Greek friends are seen moving toward the temple, looking for him, and it's implied they will eventually befall the same fate as their friends.
The Untold Ending
An alternate ending used in the unrated cut of the film shows Amy driving away from the ruins, but this time the vines appear under the skin of her face and her eye fills with blood revealing she became infected with the vines as well. A second version of the scene plays out identically, but then cuts to a cemetery where a caretaker is walking among the headstones whistling FrÃ¨re Jacques. He hears the same tune coming from Amy's grave. Around the headstone lie a few of the same red flowers, and as the caretaker reaches for one, the music surges and the scene cuts to black.
Director Carter Smith told an interviewer, "We shot a bunch of different stuff to see which one would work best with the finished film. There's a testing process you go through with a studio movie and as frustrating as it can be, it also really gives you a good sense of how an audience feels about an ending. Our final decision was informed by what audiences found the most satisfying after watching a really punishing film. I love the ending of the book, but if the movie had ended the same way, the audience would have wanted to kill themselves."
- Jonathan Tucker as Jeff McIntire
- Jena Malone as Amy
- Laura Ramsey as Stacy
- Shawn Ashmore as Eric
- Joe Anderson as Mathias
- Dimitri Baveas as Dimitri
- Jesse Ramirez as Mayan
- Jordan Patrick Smith as Heinrich
- Karen Strassman as Vocal effects for The Vines
The shooting of this film took place in Southern Australia. According to The Miami Herald, "Smith was two-thirds done with the book when Ben Stiller's production company, Red Hour Films, bought the screen rights based on an outline. 'They told me they wanted me to write the screenplay, too,' Smith says. 'So while I was writing the last third of the book, I already knew I'd be adapting it for the movies.'"
Director Carter Smith said, "If the audience is going to buy that this vine moves and can get into your body and all that, the world of the film has to be absolutely realistic. We took elements from lots of different real-life plants when designing our vine. It's in practically every single shot in the film after the characters reach the hill, so it has to look like something that could really be growing there. But it also has to look menacing once you realize what it is capable of doing."
The Ruins was released in the US on 4 April 2008. In the US box office it debuted at #5 making $8,003,421. After 3 weeks it exited the top 10. As of 7 July 2008 it has grossed $17,432,844 domestically and $22,321,810 worldwide. the film was considered a success, as it made back its production budget ($8 million) in its opening weekend.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. As of 6 October 2013, the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 48% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 95 reviews.
Among critics who gave the film favorable reviews, James Berardinelli gave the film three stars out of four, saying, "The Ruins does what a good psychological horror movie should do: rely on tension rather than gore to achieve its aims. This bleak, edgy motion picture isn't concerned with appealing to the masses that flock to multiplexes to enjoy the spatterings of the latest serial slasher or the hollow weirdness of a PG-13 ghost story."
The Miami Herald gave a mixed review: "The Ruins is, with one major caveat, about as good an adaptation of Scott Smith's bestselling novel as Hollywood was ever going to make...except for a stray shot here and there â" like a glimpse of the vine's tendrils making off with a severed foot â" the great potential for unintentional guffaws is mostly avoided."
The Ruins was released on DVD on 8 July 2008 in both R-rated and unrated versions. It debuted at #4 on the DVD Sales Chart, selling 189,128 copies. As of 3 August 2008, The Ruins has sold 343,414 copies. The R-rated edition includes a commentary by director Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt, three featurettes (Making The Ruins, Creeping Death, Building The Ruins), additional scenes (Rain, Celebration, Going Over The Escape Plan, Alternate Ending), and trailers. The unrated edition includes the theatrical cut and extra material, and also an alternate ending and optional commentary with additional scenes. An unrated Blu-ray Disc edition is also available with identical features.
- Official website
- The Ruins at the Internet Movie Database
- The Ruins at Metacritic
- The Ruins at Box Office Mojo
- The Ruins at AllMovie
- Human Lab Rat (Viral marketing Justin.tv channel)