I know this is supposed to be located somewhere in Mexico, but it was filmed in Australia, and that makes total sense. The plant life in Australia is terrifying. The insect life in Australia is terrifying. The animal life in Australia is terrifying. Seriously, it’s an entire continent of beautiful beaches and ecological nightmares. So yeah, this movie could have just been set there. I’d probably have found it even more believable. Australia will kill us all.
Four Americans, paired up as couples, are vacationing somewhere in Mexico. They’re spending their days drinking too much, getting too much sun, doing the usual tourist thing of not actually spending any time with or learning about the culture, and generally looking like they might be in need of a good shower. That’s when they meet German tourist Mathias, who shyly makes friends and invites them to visit a hidden Mayan ruin that his brother headed off to the day before. The friends agree and catch a ride with Mathias and his buddy Dimitri to the temple, leaving behind a couple of Greek tourist buddies of Mathias who were drunkenly sleeping off their night on the beach. Yeah, this could still be Australia.
Once Mathias, Dimitri, and the Americans, Jeff, Amy, Eric, and Stacy find the temple, they get surrounded by locals who don’t seem to understand English or Spanish and who kill Dimitri and refuse to let them leave. Everyone heads up the stairs to try and figure out what’s going on, not noticing the giant vine that grows all over everything. Soon they succumb to injury and learn that the vine is very fast growing, fast moving, makes sounds, and in general is as nasty as kudzu in the American South.
What’s that, you say? You don’t know about kudzu? Well, it grows like hell, smothers everything in its path, and in general is trying to kill us all. It was introduced from Japan some decades back and decided it really wanted to become an invasive species, so now we have to fend it off, sometimes with torches and sticks. We’ve literally fought this sucker with Agent Orange, and it still won’t die. Kudzu is nasty, so The Ruins is infinitely more believable for me. I just see it as the Australian version of our plant problem.
So yeah, the evil vine feeds on human flesh. Mathias breaks his back in a fall, and the vine eats his legs down to the bone, leading to a nasty amputation scene before it finally does him in. Amy gets a cut on her leg, and the vine grows up inside of her, until eventually she carves herself up like a pumpkin to get it out. Meanwhile, Jeff, Amy, and Eric all try to stay calm and fail. Oh, they fail almost completely. By the end of this, Jeff’s pretty much the only level-headed person of the bunch, and if you’re wondering if he survives…look, just don’t wonder who will survive, it’s not a good trait.
The important thing is that The Ruins has some creepy ideas and some disturbing imagery to show off. Sometimes it’s hokey to watch the plant tendrils dragging corpses off to eat, but at other times it can be grossly effective. If you want to meet your nasty surgery quota, you’re gonna get some of that here. Also, the main characters seem to think they’re sacrifices, though honestly they’re just dumb tourists that wandered into a situation the natives had in hand and screwed the whole thing up. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me if killer vines spread their way up to the US-Mexico border, possibly in caravans. I look forward to seeing someone attempt to make that movie. “Oh shit, the vines are climbing the wall!” Yeah, vines do that.
Yes, this movie is based on a book. You probably should go read it.
And never forget, it’s Australia, not Mexico, that is the great continent of Fuck That.