Oh dear. Just when you think 'The Ruins' can't get any more cringeful, one of the central characters - all-American jock and medical student Jeff - belts out the line: "Four Americans do not just go missing on holiday." 

And that's precisely what happens in 'The Ruins', a backpacker horror movie very much in the mould of 'Hostel', 'Paradise Lost' and 'Wolf Creek', with a dose of Stephen King also thrown into the mix. As like the aforementioned films, the basic premise is that good-looking young travellers go on holiday, only to fall foul of nasty locals and a series of horrific events.

The plot concerns two couples - Jeff (Tucker) and Amy (Malone), and Eric (Ashmore) and Stacey (Ramsey). Lazing by the pool in a Mexican resort, they decide to venture into the jungle to visit a Mayan ruin at the bequest of German backpacker Mathias (Anderson), who hopes to meet up with his brother at the site.

When they arrive at the site, which is covered in vines and red roses, they are attacked by locals who force them up the temple steps and will endeavour to kill them should they come down. Trapped on the ruins they discover that Mathias' brother and his friends are missing. More alamingly, the mysterious vines are alive and have a thirst for human blood. Thus, it transpires, the locals believe the ruins to be cursed and so will not let them leave. How will the four escape?

Director Carter Smith sets up the film with the usual fare - a prelude of a screaming girl, followed by our introduction to the characters as they relax in a beach-side paradise before the hellish events begin. Though the dialogue often makes you wince, the premise is fresher than approaches to similar teen-horror tales such as 'P2' and 'Prom Night'.

The majority of the film takes place on top of the ruins of the title, and so Smith has little room to work with. Taking this into mind, he does a decent job of holding our attention throughout as he keeps us guessing as to what horror genre he'll delve into. There are hints that a slasher movie may unfold before it settles on supernatural terror. Ivy though as terrorising? It doesn't quite work.

Though 'The Ruins' is very poor, we've seen a lot worse.

Steve Cummins