Monday, January 19, 2009

The Ruins

Filmed almost entirely in tangled Australian rainforest, this enjoyable horror film is a kind of I'm an American Citizen Get Me Out of Here.

We begin at poolside, supposedly somewhere in Mexico. A quartet of college-age Yanks are working their way through a jug-load of Margaritas. One amongst them apparently thinks there might be more to this place, and that they should undertake some sort of cultural excursion on their last day.

Cue incident involving a misplaced earring which leads to a chance encounter with one of those more intellectually-curious European types. This adventurous German is called Matthias and he duly invites the two American couples to join him and a Greek lad called Dimitri on a trip to some Mayan ruins which are "off ze map".

This is to be, he adds, "a VIP trip"...and it certainly turns out to be one that tests these young Americans' sense of their own importance in the cosmic scheme of things to the full. If the people banged up inside the apartment block in [REC] were left feeling biliously exasperated by the way the authorities so quickly abandon them to their fate, the anger felt by this little group quaranteened atop a temple by impertinent indigenes is tempered by a palpable sense of disbelief. We're surely worth more than this, than them...the outside world is bound to come looking for us...why did we come to the jungle in flip-flops...?

The primary threat here is provided by some flesh-invading, cellphone-imitating enredaderas. They might look a bit like the kind of plastic flora one comes across in Spanish autoroute service stations, but they do provide the requisite amount of menace and - spoiler alert - by my count are anyway only to be directly responsible for 20% of the visitor fatalities we witness.

I was also quite surprised about how much of the nastiness ultimately occurs outside in the bright sunshine. The identity of the 'final female' came as less of a shock however.

"Ahora ya sabes porque no me gusta ir a las ruinas Mayas," noted V tersely as the end credits rolled.

I referred her to the words of a Maya priest I came across at Tikal last November: "These are not ruins...this is a sacred city."

Grade: B++

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