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John’s Horror Corner: The Ruins (2008), this “botanical horror” is a fun, gory, infection-based killer plant movie worth your time.

May 16, 2021

MY CALL:  I love this flick! There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s still a solid movie. We have an awesome cast giving good performances in a well-directed, deliciously gory killer plant movie. What more did you want?  MORE MOVIES LIKE The RuinsWell, for more killer plant movies I’d aim for Splinter (2008), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Seed People (1992) and The Girl with All the Gifts (2016). I’d skip The Crawlers (1993). For more Central American horror, consider Dolly Dearest (1991) and Indigenous (2014). I’d also strongly recommend Cabin Fever (2002, 2016).

Approaching the end of their vacation in Mexico, a rather likable group of college students (two couples) meet two European tourists who lead them to an off-the-maps archaeological dig site deep in the jungle by a Mayan village. Off-grid in the wilderness of southern Mexico… wandering down some hidden path… to a site not on any maps… what could possibly go wrong?

Our tourists are played by Jonathan Tucker (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Jena Malone (The Neon Demon), Laura Ramsey (The Covenant, Venom), Shawn Ashmore (The Day, Mother’s Day), Joe Anderson (The Crazies) and Dimitri Baveas. The entire cast serves the film well with their performances.

The adventure proves worth it when they approach the Mayan ruins: a vine-enshrouded pyramid. Facing a significant language barrier, the Mayan villagers are enraged when the tourists get too close to the structure, threatening to kill them by gun or arrow and forcing their retreat to the top of the ruins. Now marooned atop the structure where they find a dead body cocooned in vines, the tourists are besieged by the armed villagers who clearly will not let them leave.

A gunshot tearing off a jaw-dropping chunk of someone’s head kicks off our gore expectations for the movie well. But there is still much fun to come! Our tourists come to learn their exposure to the plants has contaminated them. And when idle (or sleeping), the vines will parasitize flesh wounds and grow into their victim flesh! One guy’s broken legs get gnarly-rooted up!

And as for surprises, I love the part with the cell phone! THAT I won’t spoil. And then there’s the medical “amputation” scene, which seems heavily inspired by From Beyond (1986) and Cabin Fever (2002, 2016) in combination! Just gloriously gory and shocking! There is, in fact, another surgery scene that is very different but still satisfyingly gross! These vines are full of surprises, they attack to murder slowly and quietly, but most of the time they just keep to themselves lying in wait. It’s very satisfying (and sort of impishly feisty) when the vines drag human remains into their masses. We also enjoy some very bloody gashed-up self-mutilation—a typical trope of infection movies.

And while nothing groundbreaking in concept, I really enjoyed the simple execution of the ending. It’s really nice when horror finishes well as feisty vines drag body parts and cadavers deep into their freshly fertilized brambles. Strong recommendation for fans of Cabin Fever (2002, 2016) and Splinter (2008).

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