The Ruins is a 2008 horror film directed by Carter Smith which stars Jordan Patrick Smith, Jonathan Tucker, Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, and Joe Anderson. Released in 2008, the American-Australian co-production is based on the novel of the same name by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay.
Two young American couples (Jeff and Amy, and Eric and Stacy) on vacation in Mexico make friends with a German tourist, Mathias, and decide to help him look for his brother, Heinrich. Heinrich had met a female archaeologist and followed her to an archaeological dig at a remote Mayan ruin in the jungle but has not been seen since. Dimitri, a friend of Mathias, joins the bus journey to the Mayan site using a crude map drawn by Heinrich.
When the group reaches the ruins, Mayan villagers appear with guns and bows. Mathias tries to tell them they’re looking for his brother, but the villagers do not understand Spanish or English. Dimitri approaches the villagers with the hope of appeasing them, but he is instead killed. The rest of the group then flees up the steps of the ruins to escape the Mayans.
At the top they find an abandoned camp and a shaft in the center leading down. The group cannot call for help since Eric’s phone has no signal and the Mayans now have the other. They hear a cell phone ringing from somewhere inside the ruins. Mathias says he is certain it’s his brother’s ringtone and is lowered down. However, the rope breaks and he falls, becoming paralyzed at the bottom of the shaft.
Meanwhile, Amy and Jeff descend the temple steps hoping to reason with the Mayans, but to no success. In anger, Amy throws a clump of vines at them and hits a young boy, leading the Mayans to shoot him. They then realize the Mayans are afraid of the vines, and the Mayans won’t let them go since they have touched them. Later, Stacy and Amy descend the shaft to help Mathias and to find the phone. Jeff and Eric rig a backboard and bring Mathias out of the shaft.
The next morning, Stacy observes a tendril of vine has crept into a wound on her leg during the night. The vines have also wrapped themselves around Mathias’s lower legs and eaten them down to the bone. Eric and Jeff are barely able to remove the vines from Stacy but cannot get them off of Mathias.
The cell phone is heard again from deep in the shaft so Stacy and Amy descend again. In a small, vine-covered room, the two find the body of the young archaeologist as well as her broken phone. Amy discovers that the flowers of the vine are vibrating and screeching, reproducing the ring of the phone. As she goes to touch one, the vines attack and the two barely manage to escape.
The group now realizes that the vines are predatory and witness the Mayans salting the soil around the hill. While the others want to try to escape, Jeff insists that help is on the way since they haven’t checked out of their hotel and will miss their flight. After some more arguing, they all hesitantly agree to wait.
With Mathias’ condition getting worse, Jeff amputates both his legs saying Mathias will die of an infection otherwise. Stacy becomes jealous at Eric comforting a distraught Amy, accusing them of having sex claiming that she overheard Amy moaning (most likely replicated by the vines). While the four argue, the vines suffocate Mathias by going down his throat.
Paranoid that the vines are inside her, Stacy begins to slash herself in an attempt to remove them. When Eric tries to stop her, she fatally stabs him. Overcome with remorse, Stacy begs Amy to kill her. Stacy is heard screaming, continuing to beg them to kill her and her screams abruptly stop.
Realizing they’ll eventually die, Jeff makes a plan for Amy to escape. He smears Stacy’s blood all over her, then carries her to the bottom of the temple and lays her on the ground, making her appear to be dead. Jeff approaches the Mayans aggressively – which leads to the Mayans shooting him down. Simultaneously, Amy escapes through the jungle with the Mayans chasing after her. Narrowly missing arrows and gunfire, Amy starts the Jeep and furiously drives away.
Some time later, Dimitri’s Greek friends are seen moving toward the temple, looking for him, But they will eventually die the same fate as his friend.
An alternate ending used in the unrated cut of the film shows Amy driving away from the ruins, but this time the vines appear under the skin of her face and her eye fills with blood revealing she became infected with the vines as well. A second version of the scene plays out identically, but then cuts to a cemetery where a caretaker is walking among the headstones whistling Frère Jacques. He hears the same tune coming from Amy’s grave. Around the headstone lie a few of the same red flowers, and as the caretaker reaches for one, the music surges and the scene cuts to black.
Director Carter Smith told an interviewer, “We shot a bunch of different stuff to see which one would work best with the finished film. There’s a testing process you go through with a studio movie and as frustrating as it can be, it also really gives you a good sense of how an audience feels about an ending. Our final decision was informed by what audiences found the most satisfying after watching a really punishing film. I love the ending of the book, but if the movie had ended the same way, the audience would have wanted to kill themselves.”
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film: