I think this one is highly under appreciated as a horror (or thriller movie). Whatever you want to call it this is definitely one of my favorite movies in what I’d call the “survival horror” genre. Now, many people would think of survival horror as zombies or some kind of apocalypse. The thing is, this story is all based around characters who are literally just trying to survive. No, it’s not the end of the entire world but it’s pretty much the end of their world.
The main characters are Jeff, Eric, Amy, Stacy, and Matias. There is another one thrown in (Dimitri) but he doesn’t last too long. As usual, this review will contain spoilers so if you don’t want to know what happens to the characters then don’t read any further.
The initial group of four (Ami, Jeff, Eric, and Stacy) are all friends. Well, Stacy and Amy are best friends and Eric is Stacy’s boyfriend and Jeff is Amy’s boyfriend. By default they are all friends because that’s how that works, right? They all go on a trip to Mexico after college. Jeff is in med school because he wants to be a doctor (this will become important later).
While they are there Jeff and Eric and Stacy wanted to see some Mayan ruins. Amy didn’t seem too bothered to go. Then they meet a guy named Matias. He finds Amy’s earring that she thought she lost at the pool. They start talking to him and it turns out his brother is at some dig site that is totally off limits to the public. He invites them to come out there because his brother is out there. They go to some small town in the middle of Mexico and then hire a guy to drive them to the dig site.
As one could imagine, nothing goes as planned after that. First, Amy is trying to take a picture of the locals who are trying to warn them not to touch the vines on the ruins. Of course, none of them speak English. Amy steps in the vines and the locals all freak out. Thinking that it’s the camera they are upset about Dimitri (the random other guy who joined them) gets the camera from Amy but also touches the vines. When he gets too close they shoot him in the face. This causes all the remaining characters to run up the temple ruins to the top. It soon becomes obvious the locals aren’t going to let them go.
The vines, in this movie (and in the book which was equally as fucked up) are pretty much flesh-eating vines. They have evolved to a point where they can mimic human sounds (in the book it says they can even mimic the smell of food). This explains why they hear a cell phone down in the cavern where the excavation site was. Upon attempting to get down there Matias falls and breaks his back. This leaves the rest of them to try to bring him up back to the surface at the top of the ruins.
His back is broken and so there isn’t much they can do. Jeff insists if they just wait long enough someone is going to come help them. They are supposed to check out and blah blah blah. The classic “this doesn’t JUST HAPPEN to Americans” line is also thrown in there. They start to ration what little food they have on Jeff’s instruction because he’s the med school student after all. It keeps getting more horrifying.
Due to the fact that Matias’s back is broken, they end up having to amputate his legs when the vines start to eat them. This leaves him in a vulnerable enough state that eventually the vines just crawl in his mouth and down his throat. Pretty much the vines can do that shit because they are hardcore evil. When Stacy gets cut trying to get down to help Matais the vines start to grow in her leg wound.
This leads to a bunch of vines growing inside of her and her going pretty much insane trying to carve them out. At first, Jeff is the one who helps. She insists there are more and she needs to cut out more. When they don’t let her, she sneaks off while they are all asleep and does it herself. Leaving her in an “about to totally bleed to death” state. When they try to get the knife away from her she cuts Jeff, then swings wildly and stabs her boyfriend in the chest, pretty much killing him instantly. At that point, she begs for Amy to kill her. Amy won’t so Jeff totally does. Which then allows him to devise a plan to get Amy out of there while he runs a distraction tactic.
Now, I know a lot of people seemed to have hated this movie for some reason. It got a poor rating on Rotten Tomatoes. No idea why. This movie was expertly done. For one, you have to consider it was done on location (kinda) or at least outside. Every effect they show (the amputation of legs, the carving, and cutting of skin, even the bullet wound to the head) it’s all practical effects. Minimal CGI was used and even then it was really only to clean up shots or hide wires that were pumping blood into the prosthetic limbs being used.
Not only that but, the actors were amazing. Then they are trying to get the vines out of Stacy you actually believe she is being cut. I’m not sure how the actress pulled that one off but kudos to her. She’s even better when she’s carving up her own skin. Maybe it helped that the effects were practical, I don’t know. The point is that this movie takes a some what realistic scenario (you know, minus the man-eating plants) and gives us realistic characters.
They all behave within the parameters of how people would actually react to these situations. No one is overly smart, no one is overly stupid. They are all fairly rational given what they had to work with to try to survive. The acting is above and beyond amazing. The effects, music, and cinematography was perfect considering a lot of this was filmed in broad daylight. I’ve seen this movie more than a dozen times and I’d highly recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach. Even though the premise is a bit “shaky” (killer vines and all) with the acting and effects as good as they are, it’s incredibly easy to suspend disbelief and just go along for the ride with these characters.
4/5 stars for me. I can’t give it 5 out of 5 only because I think that in some ways there was more gore than they actually needed to show but that might be preference. To be fair, in real life, there would legit be that much blood (if not more).