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The Ruins

The lesson to be learned from this adaptation of Scott B. Smith's best-selling novel seems to be: "Don't trust the plants." The lesson for potential moviegoers, however, might best be: "Stay at home."


Taking its cue from every vacation nightmare you've ever heard about, this shocker in the Stephen King/Peter Benchley vein sees a group of American tourists in Mexico taking an unwise, off-the-map sight-seeing tour of Mayan ruins, where they encounter a wicked strain of weed that feeds on humans. For the next hour or so, our panicked protagonists try to formulate an escape plan while sidestepping the vicious vegetation in their midst. Along the way, there are a couple of amputations and some amateur surgeries--all the better to please those members of the audience predisposed to such grisly goings-on.


As the principal foursome who find themselves endangered, Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker, Laura Ramsey and Shawn Ashmore play it very straight. There's not much leeway with these characters; they're here to suffer, and suffer they do. They're so obviously doomed from the start, however, that it's hard to work up much interest in their eventual fates. Although the actors play their one-note roles with conviction, there's the nagging sense that each is capable of better--if only the material were there


Making his feature debut, Carter Smith (no relation to the author) directs in a straightforward, no-nonsense style. This is yet another of those horror films that might well have worked better in a shorter, tighter format--or, better yet, as part of a multi-part anthology (not unlike a similar installment about killer pond scum--remember that one?--in Creepshow 2 back in 1987). As a full-length feature, however, The Ruins is repetitious and predictable. Author Smith fared better when adapting his previous best-seller, A Simple Plan, back in 1998, even scoring an Academy Award nomination. Call this a sophomore jinx. The only major surprise is seeing Ben Stiller listed as one of the producers.

Bottom Line rated this film 1 1/2 stars.