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The Ruins (Unrated Edition) - horror DVD review
THE RUINS (UNRATED EDITION) Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson
Director: Carter Smith   Studio: DreamWorks SKG
DVD release: 08 July 2008   Runtime: 93 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), Commentary by Carter Smith and editor Jeff Betancourt, Making the Ruins, Creeping Death, Building the Ruins, Deleted scenes, Theatrical trailer, Previews
Last year, I read Scott Smith's book The Ruins and wasn't particularly impressed. But while reading, I thought that it would probably make for a decent movie - at the very least it could be quite scary. Unfortunately, though, the movie does not really deliver either.

While vacationing in Mexico, four friends (two couples) - Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), Amy (Jena Malone), Stacy (Laura Ramsey), and Eric (Shawn Ashmore) - meet another tourist, a German named Mathias (Joe Anderson). Mathias tells them that his brother has followed a girl to some ancient Mayan ruins, and Mathias wants to go find him. For kicks, the four Americans decide to tag along so as to explore these secret ruins themselves.

When they attempt to find transportation, the Mexicans seem afraid to take them there, but a little bribery goes a long way, and soon they are off. When they arrive, the group discovers Mathias's brother's jeep, along with some other vehicles. They trek through the jungle using a crudely drawn map and find a large stone Mayan structure, covered in vines. The five are quickly surrounded by Mayan natives who seem intent on either driving the group away or killing them, and none of the tourists can figure out why. They climb the ruins to find Mathias's brother, with the Mayans keeping guard at the bottom, not letting them escape.

The group finds an abandoned camp and wants to leave but cannot get past the Mayans. They hear a cell phone ringing at the bottom of a well; Mathias identifies it as belonging to his brother and he is lowered inside, getting injured during the descent. The five soon discover that the vines surrounding them are carnivorous, but although they want to escape, neither the vines nor the Mayans below will let them go.

This really could have been a good movie. There are so many directions the plot could have gone, but Scott Smith (who also wrote the screenplay) decided to go for the horror/gore rather than for the thriller-type chills and scares. The main problem with this movie is that there is absolutely no character development. I didn't care one way or the other about any of them, because we never get to know them at all as real people. Pretty much everything they do is inane and idiotic, and the lack of character development makes the watcher just shrug their shoulders and say, "Whatever."

The special features include an alternate ending, the original theatrical ending and, obviously, the ending portrayed on the DVD. None of them are anything close to the book, and the alternate ending isn't terribly original. There are also deleted scenes, some behind-the-scenes featurettes (making of), and a commentary by the editor and director.

Since I didn't see the movie in the theater, I can't really comment on what makes this unrated version different from the theatrical release. But it is very gory and bloody in certain parts, and along with the comment on the back of the case ("scenes too intense for theaters") it leads me to believe the gore is just more intense and extended.

If you like straight horror movies and can suspend your disbelief about people's stupidity (we follow some guy we just met for a hike to some "secret" ruins wearing shorts and flip flops and have no provisions or anything, and we scoff when people tell us it's dangerous), then you just might enjoy this movie quite a bit. You'll probably never look at a bunch of vines in the same way again!
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reviewed by Melissa Parcel
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