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.
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.
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.
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.