While the characters predictably and dutifully get bumped off while trying to find a way off a decaying pyramid, a subtle argument develops against them. They wouldn't be in this predicament if they weren't egotistical, lunkheaded tourists to begin with, arriving at their fate without invitation and against plentiful warnings. These are unsympathetic characters in a very mainstream movie, you gasp. They brought these ruins on themselves.
The calamity arrives on the last day of vacation for Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore), and their girlfriends, Amy (Jena Malone) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey). The four, bored by the confines of "the hotel pool and the beach," jump at the chance to accompany newfound friend Mathias (Joe Anderson) to "some ruins" that aren't on the tourist maps. When they arrive there, they find themselves uncomfortably stuck between locals who won't let them leave and a mysterious creature that would like to have them for dinner.
Movies like this often contain fair amounts of gallows humor, but the better ones like "The Ruins" get their laughs with some shame and subtlety. Instead of having the group members summarily killed, the movie slowly disposes of them as if they were overtaken by the same kind of creeping rot that spreads over their locale.
The first to go breaks his back and has the flesh eaten off his legs, which are then messily removed to prevent infection, before being eaten from the inside out and then carted off for final disposal. The entirety transpires not in the dark, out of sight, but in broad daylight, in full view. "The Ruins" is nasty business without ever striving to make its characters sympathetic, at least until the finale. If we laugh, and there are times we can't help it, it's mostly a release of intense queasiness we share with the characters at the thought of their fate. (R) 91 min. S
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