I’ve spent so much time on music lately, that The Pantry is ready for a change of pace. Scott Smith’s “The Ruins” is a well-crafted short novel. Stephen King even approved of Smith’s second novel, his first being “A Simple Plan”. What I’m really impressed with is, that the movie version, while altering the plot in a few major ways, mainly sticks to the storyline, portraying the depths of character conflict, and not just the most obvious one—that six people find themselves stranded on a hill covered in flowers. Sounds lovely, right?
“The Ruins” (novel) by Scott Sands
Scott Sands sets up his tale on a beach in Mexico, and from there he builds his characters. The realistic, resourceful Jeff and his moody girlfriend, Amy; the flaky Stacey and her own easygoing boyfriend Eric; and we have the wise German Methias and the Greeks, who speak no English. We see all but two of these last (of whom there are three) half-heartedly leave the resort to find Methias’s wayward brother, who left with an archaeologist to dig up a ruined mine in the jungles. And this, is where we find them, stranded on a hill covered in pretty red flowers, surrounded by guys with guns and arrows and the barriers of language. And as the scenes of blood and death begin to arrive in spades, out of a melancholy novel that portrays the heat and unhealthy vibes of their experience, character conflicts begin to arise. Stacey’s cheating, Amy’s inability to focus in a bad situation, the bare communication between Eric, Jeff and Methias.
This is, in effect, a novel more about the drama of youth, exaserbated by tropical heat. Though deaths occur, and the gore is well-enough written to make you cringe, this isn’t the best read unless you’re going through a rough patch yourself and need to sympathize.
The Ruins (Movie)
I have to say that I enjoyed the movie a little better than the book, and would gladly watch it, even if something about my own life isn’t rotten—which nothing is. Scenes are added to explain and set up conflict, such as the party the night before they leave. Of course, roles are a little altered, Amy being the unfaithful one, flirting with Methias (instead of Stacey with one of the Greek tourists), and it is Stacey, not Eric, who ends up butchering herself. And of course, because as Americans we love even an attempt at a happy ending, Amy attempts to escape, rather than commit suicide, which is what SOMEONE does in the novel. I’ve already given away too much, however. The point is, the movie evokes first the sleepy atmosphere of a summer resort vecation in Mexico, then the suffocating heat of the jungle, in which the bloodshed and conflict arise.
Overall, Scott Smith’s novel was detail-dense, but easy to follow. He managed to evoke certain emotions, but failed at the overtones of the environment. The movie made from the book, however, proves that on occasion, it can be better.