I first saw this movie when it was first released and almost hated it. So when I picked up the original novel version of this film, years later, I was completely blown away. The Ruins by Scott B. Smith may be one of the most terrifying books I have EVER read, and I read a lot of horror books, as to be expected. I can even easily say that I found this book much more atmospheric than most of the Stephen King novels I have read. After reading this fantastic book, I wanted to re-watch the movie, this time with open arms and open eyes. Again, I was sorely disappointed. BUT, I did come out with a better appreciation of the film even though the book is a thousand times better.
I decided to read the book last summer right before we went to Mexico on vacation. This book/movie takes place in Mexico, so it seemed only fitting since I like to scare myself silly any chance I get. Two couples, Jeff and Amy, and Stacy and Eric, go on vacation in Mexico as a last hoorah before moving into the next stages of their lives as young twenty-something’s. For their last day in leisurely paradise, they opt out of the beach and poolside cabanas and decide to take an adventure off the beaten path- to the Mayan ruins deep in the jungle. This last minute decision was decided when their new German friend, Mathias, asks for their help to find his missing brother in the jungle. Pablo, a party-fueled, Greek man, joins Mathias and the two American couples on their journey.
I do want to give the movie credit for character development. Of course, in the book, each of these characters are so engrossing with their own internal thoughts and insecurities and the relationships they have with each other. The movie does a pretty decent job with fleshing out these characters to make them seem like real people. Usually one of my biggest problems with horror movies is the lack of multi-dimensional characters, so director Carter Smith has that going for him.
The ‘horror’ part of this story begins when the group of friends are forced onto a vine-covered mountain by local Mayans and not allowed to leave. The language barrier between the locals and the friends makes it unclear why they are being forced onto this mountain, but they find out how serious the Mayans are when they shoot and kill one of the friends. They are not allowed to step foot off this vined land and have to figure out how to survive with very few resources. Not only that, they soon discover that these vines are alive. Alive like you and me, full of thoughts and premeditated action. The vines also have a taste for human flesh. Their circumstance has just gone from bad to worse.
I think what made me dislike this movie in the first place was the stupid and dreadful CGI effects. Killer plants? Yes, it is an original idea but it is so poorly executed in the film. Killer plants on film can seem a little ridiculous, but in the book Scott Smith manages to make this idea almost unbearably scary and strangely logical. In the book, we don’t find out about the vines until half way through the story. The movie, on the other hand, takes the highlights from the book and mashes them all together, leaving out the delicious tension leading up to each horrifying event.
Every time I think about the book, it literally makes my skin crawl. There are details from the book that are in the movie that I whole-heartedly appreciate. But as in most cases, the book far exceeds the movie version. The Ruins movie is worth a watch after all, but if you really want to experience the gruesomeness of it all, READ THE BOOK.
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