***/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras A
starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey
screenplay by Scott Smith, based on his novel
directed by Carter Smith
by Walter Chaw Based on a novel by the guy who wrote A Simple Plan and directed by first-timer Carter Smith, The Ruins was lost in the shuffle of a seeming barrage of beautiful-tourists-getting-slaughtered splatter flicks, which may prove to be one of the many genre legacies of the ugly-American, difference-abhorrent Bush Jr. administration. (Not to mention that the flick could easily be read as an eco-horror picture. Lots of legacies, that W., all of them fertile for the horror genre.) What distinguishes it from the Hostels and the Turistas' and Club Dreads is a seriousness in its execution and a feeling that there's nothing happening in the film that is a result of stupidity or even caprice--that the gauntlet our gorgeous heroes go through is only the best example of the futility of our evolution since The Blair Witch Project. It's a fable of that Sophoclean idea that knowledge brings no profit to the wise, and though it might be a reach, it feels in this time and place like a story about how knowing that we're going to get blown up by an angry young man over a large body of water doesn't do a thing to prevent it from occurring. It's a film that talks about hopelessness and, like in a powerful moment from Marcus Nispel's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the youth of its cast suddenly bespeaks of a squeezing-off of potential rather than just tits-and-ass exploitation. Closer to the point, the titillation you feel during the prologue of our cast bathing on a Mexican beach before embarking on their bloody, intimate deaths is brutally punished. The destruction of beauty in The Ruins (the title finally makes sense) becomes allegory for a collective fear of suffering: just as porn works on some level as a fantasy of "if she'll do that, she'll do me," The Ruins works on the level of, If it could happen to these kids, smart and beautiful, then it sure as shit is going to happen to me.