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Say it ain't so: "The Ruins" is going to suck

Ruins_2 I read devoured Scott Smith's The Ruins the week it was published in 2006 and immediately started pondering how I would adapt it into a film if I won the lottery and could afford to buy the screen rights.

But Ben Stiller, who is rich and has his own production company, swooped in and snatched the book, hired Scott Smith to write the screenplay himself and gave the directorial reins to first-timer Carter Smith, whose resoundingly creepy, award-winning short film Bugcrush played at least year's Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Ruins1 The involvement of the two Mr. Smiths raised my hopes even higher for the movie. The book, about a group of young adults on vacation in Cancun who wander onto a patch of jungle where really bad things happen, has all the elements for a great popcorn thriller: A finite cast of just-rounded-enough characters, an atmospheric setting, an endless supply of horrific tableaux and an original, you've-never-seen-this-before monster.

Trimmer Alas, it appears my hopes are about to be weedwhacked, since Paramount Pictures is not screening The Ruins until 10 p.m. April 3, the night before it opens in theaters. Which means no opening-day reviews. Which means The Ruins will be on par with this. And this. And this. And this. And... well, you get the picture.

Ruins_3 Spoilers ahead: Scott Smith told USA Today he made a couple of changes from book to script, including removing the monster's ability to mimic voices, in order to avoid unintentional laughter from the audience. But that means one of the best passages from the novel isn't going to be in the film. Aaarrrggh.

The same thing happened with the movie based on Smith's first book, A Simple Plan, which had an ending so dramatically different from the novel that it effectively changed the entire story from something truly sinister and chilling to a boilerplate noir-thing.

What annoyed me the most about the alterations made to A Simple Plan is that there was absolutely no need to change the ending of the book, other than worrying about what audiences were going to think and trying to preempt negative reactions.

It sounds like the new movie may be a victim of the same kinds of premature alterations. But I'm still going to hold out hope they haven't completely ruined The Ruins. If you haven't read the book, do yourself a favor and pick it up before the movie comes out, so you won't have the experience spoiled for you.

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Connie

This is a disappointment for sure...though I had some doubts as to how the film was going to be half as creepy as the book. Sometimes what you imagine is more ominous than actually seeing the mayhem on screen. No spoilers here, but I'm not persuaded that what works so well in the book is going to look anything but silly on screen.


Peter Debruge

I nearly stopped reading the book when I hit the part you're talking about, although I suspect it would actually work better on screen than it might in print.

Word on the street out here in Hollywood is that it's tracking something awful (in other words, per the studio's research, no one wants to see it) and they're nixing test screenings (as you mention). Still, if they have such low expectations, I don't see the harm in sticking their neck out.

Another bit of gossip: Carter Smith originally had another horror movie pegged as his first feature, which (if I understood correctly) would have been about a girl who captures a troll and sparks some sort of kinky relationship with it (she takes it home and tortures it?). Looks like Smith went the higher-profile route, but in doing so, probably just delivered another forgettable dead-teenager movie. Shame.

Juan

Wasn't going to waste my time watching this anyway. Looks like another run of the mill pretty teens in peril movie. Those aren't the slightes bit amusing anymore.

What happens in the books ending of A Simple Plan? What was there to drastically change that much and why?

Rene Rodriguez

The first half of the film adaptation of A Simple Plan sticks pretty closely to the book. But they start to diverge around the halfway mark. In the novel, the narrator Hank (played by Bill Paxton in the movie) is shocked and horrified after he commits his first murder, just like in the movie.

But even after he kills his brother, which is the film's climactic moral transgression, Hank keeps on killing - and killing. The end of the book is a veritable bloodbath inside a convenience store, where Hank is basically hacking people with a machete.

That probably sounds nutty to anyone who has only seen the film. But the book was a textbook example of the Unreliable Narrator trope. By the time you finished the novel, you realize Hank is a complete psychopath who loves murder even more than he loves money and has been lying to you about his true nature for the previous 300 or so pages.

It was an infinitely darker, more disturbing story than the movie, which I actually like. I've always wondered, though, why they wussed out and changed it so dramatically.

Jessica Arthars

this book sucks bigtime, and if a good movie were to have come out of it, i'd have been flabbergasted and taken rene to per se for dinner, but now he's gonna have to take me.

Rene Rodriguez

The movie might still be good. You don't know. And you should still take me to Per Se, just because. Do it!

Josh

As an avid follower of the film, I have to pop in and defend it. Yes, I'm dissapointed that they have chosen not to screen the movie for critics, blah blah blah. But up until this point, Paramount/Dreamworks has been supremely confident in the film. The website is excellently designed, as are the posters, the clips we've seen are quite good, and TV Spots and viral marketing are all over the place.

I've read three reviews thus far for the film (shocktillyoudrop, bloody-disgusting, Horror Movie a Day) all PRAISING the film. "It's turned over a new leaf in horror", "A nightmarish spectacle", and also that it's "top notch".

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