It’s time again for yet another installment of FVL. On deck for inspection this week is Scott Smith’s sensational gem, The Ruins. Much like last weeks featured piece, Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, we’re dealing with a case of super successful novel versus supreme box office failure film. But, is all as it truly seems?
Author: Scott Smith
When Scott Smith’s second novel, The Ruins hit shelves, the horror community was picked up and power-bombed on our collective heads. Not only was Smith an inactive author, his first novel, A mple Plan wasn’t even a genre piece. Needless to say, when critics and respected peers (Stephen King for example) bombarded Smith with immense praise for his second literary venture, the majority of us took serious notice.
If you haven’t read the novel, you’re misng one of the greatest pieces of fiction to be released in the last 20 years. I’d conder it as fine a piece of work as any early Barker, King, or Koontz effort, and if you follow any of those gentlemen’s work, you know their finest fiction (for the most part) was written in the earlier stages of their careers.
The story is so cliché I feel almost guilty just labeling it formulaic; the layering of the story however, is filled with engaging intricacies that keep the book glued to the palm.
A small group of friends vacationing in Mexico decide to check out some ruins where an archeological dig is said to be in the works. The ruins are intact, as the group discovers, but there’s certainly no active archeological studies unfolding. To add to this crew’s troubles, local villagers don’t take kindly to tourists, especially those who vit the ruins and come in contact with the strange foliage that engulf the ancient structure.
I’ll roll with redundancy and state the extremely obvious: one of these youngsters come in contact with the plants. A careless mishap turns this carefree trip into a trek from hell; the Mayan villagers force the group up onto the ruins, amongst the endless sea of strangely attractive plant life. Doesn’t necessarily sound like Hades, right? Wrong.
The plants are not only alive, they’re hungry. Through a grim and torturous process, the vegetation consume our focal figures, and trust me, there are some truly cringe-worthy sequences in store for readers.Ade from a heaping dose of disgustingly descriptive gory moments, there is brilliant character development at work here. We not only learn of these character’s backgrounds, but we get a wonderfully sound impreson of who they really are as separate individuals. Smith does a supreme job of illustrating the idiosyncraes of each tourist, and the attention invested in personality goes a long way in generating a brief addiction to fiction and the general peril at hand.
The novels pacing and pull-no-punches approach is greatly appreciated by this avid reader. All too often novels fall short of their potential when authors either rush through minor details, or, venturing to other de of the spectrum, over analyze when it’s really unnecessary. Smith avoids both pitfalls and delivers a pulse-pounding story that germinates in the memory long after the initial read.
I’m still reeling over the negative feedback this Carter Smith adaptation garnered. The film obviously doesn’t afford as comprehenve an examination of the novels featured characters, but it’s thoroughly adequate just the same.
Scott Smith himself handles the screenplay, and he plays his cards wonderfully. In order to squeeze the majority of the novels pivotal moments into the film, Smith seamlessly blends characters, but not characteristics. Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) is still the medical student leader, Eric (Shawn Ashmore) is still the firm-willed but quirky comedic relief, and both Amy (Jena Malone) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey) are still the obnoxious, self-centered ses of the batch. That said, don’t expect every action Jeff makes in the novel to be mirrored by Jeff in the film; if it benefits time restraints, Smith will fuse one’s actions with another’s character. Amazingly, it works, quite effectively.
Despite some shifts in the details, viewers still get the chance to experience virtually every mesmerizing moment extended to readers. From the grizzly discoveries atop the ruins, to the harrowing dismemberment and self-mutilation, it’s all showcased on screen, firmly intact and frighteningly convincing.
Though the film doesn’t enable us to dig into the minds of our main protagonists with the same efficiency of the novel, this young cast is talented enough to leave a lasting impreson. I’ve heard more than a ngle critic harp on the films performances, but I see no justification in such critiques. Jonathan Tucker is great as the stories lead, while Shawn Ashmore is extremely memorable as (what amounts to) the dekick. Both Jena Malone and Laura Ramsey are terrific as the spazzed out broads, and if they haven’t made you despise them by the films midway point, jump out of the whole ordeal, because you haven’t been paying attention. To round out the films key characters, we’ve got Joe Anderson, who portrays Mathias terrifically (despite the fact that the Mathias of the film experiences some gnificantly different hurdles than the Mathias presented in the novel) as another tourist-in-tow, who feels far more relevant than he probably should.
The special effects are impresve (the amputation scene borders on nauseating), and shouldn’t go without acclaim; as is the cinematography, which is (for the most part) stellar. All in all, I think those behind the cameras performed as admirably as those in front of.
If you’ve never been interested in this film, or ignored it for one reason or another, you’re misng something special. Though inferior to the source material, the feature is so far distanced from the hatred aimed at it, it’s unbelievable. Memorable characters, awesome gore and a reasonably original plot make for one of the most underappreciated gems to spill from the bowels of Hollywood in decades.