Recently, I finished reading the book The Ruins by Scott Smith. There was a movie made about ten years ago based on the novel but I had never watched it. So, I thought this would be one of those rare moments when I would get to read the book first and watch the movie second. I'm always finding out movies are based on books after I've already watched it. I figured I could drop my opinion on the book, the movie, and how they compare. Cause the internet doesn't have enough opinions about things already. And don't forget, there may be spoilers here. You've been warned.
First, let's start with the book. I actually loved it. It wasn't as scary as some have made it out to be. Don't get me wrong, if I was on a hill in Mexico with a sentient killer vine that could imitate noises, voices, and eat human flesh, I would pee my pants and let the Mayans guarding the place kill me. But reading about it wasn't as scary an experience as I thought it would be. I loved how dark and gritty the book was. No one came off as the hero. No one came off as better than anyone. They were all scared, they were all unsure of their actions. And yes, the book is graphic but not for the sake of shock. Instead, it's primal. You get the real sense that these people are trapped on the hill and you feel dirty yourself. It puts you in their shoes. You can feel the dirt and grime sticking to your skin. You can almost choke on the fumes from human waste. It's graphic but necessary to the story. And the ending was great. No one gets out alive. I couldn't imagine a better ending.
Alright, let's move on to the movie. It starts out with a woman all alone in a dark place. She's crying out for help when something drags her into the darkness. Then, cut to our main characters enjoying life in a Mexican beach resort. Everything moves pretty quickly. They decide to take a trip out to some Mayan ruins with a man they met about an hour ago. The quick pace is actually a good thing, though. We don't need a lot of build up. The movie is supposed to be about the ruins and the killer vines. Not college kids in a beach resort. Naturally, they get warned not to go there but they go anyway. The moment they see the ruins, everything happens fast. The Mayans guarding the place come out of the trees and yell at them. Once they touch the vines, they realize they aren't allowed to leave, thanks to the Mayans killing one of the group. The pacing of the movie is pretty fast without a lot of down time. Again, not complaining here. My one complaint is of the characters. They don't feel fleshed out or realistic. Just expendable kids on a summer vacation. In the end, one of them escapes. Not a fan of that ending for this particular story.
Last, let's examine how I feel about the movie when compared to the book. At first, it starts out almost exactly like the book. The Mexican resort, the meeting of Mathias, the Greeks and everything. Though, the movie version doesn't introduce the Greeks at all. They are nameless figures in the background. I understand books have more time to introduce characters but the movie doesn't even make an attempt at this. You would hardly even know they were Greek if not for a quick one line by another character as they walk up on the group at the beach. The group arriving at the ruins is relatively the same just much quicker. Again, this makes sense as the pacing of the movie was much faster than the book. Considering the book had over three hundred pages to tell the story and the movie only has about an hour and a half, it makes sense. So I understand the pacing. What's weird, though, is all the changes made to character's fates. For example, Dimitri (called Pablo for most of the book because they don't know his real name until later) gets killed by the Mayans in the movie and Mathias falls down the well and breaks his back. In the book, it's Dimitri(Pablo) who breaks his back and they care for him for most of the book before he dies. Of course, this change may have had to do with pacing so I understand. In the book, Eric gets infected with the vine and goes crazy, cutting himself to ribbons before stabbing Mathias in the heart by mistake. In the movie, they give that part to Stacy and let her kill her boyfriend Eric. Jeff dies in relatively the same way in the movie and the book. The Mayans take him our for trying to escape in the book whereas in the movie he's merely a distraction to allow Amy to make a run for it. And this is the change I hated the most. Amy gets away. She runs to the Jeep and drives off safely. In the book, Amy is choked to death by the vine in front of Jeff but it's too dark for him to see. He simply thinks she's puking. I prefer the books ending where no one makes it out alive. Of course, in both the book and the movie, the Greeks show up to the ruins in the end. This ending makes sense in the books because we just witnessed our entire group die with no hope of escape. Now, we know what's going to happen to the Greeks. They have no chance. But following the movie's ending, we see there is a chance. The Mayans can be outsmarted. In the book, stepping into the vines meant certain death one way or another. The movie misses that mark and gives us a hopeful ending. Personally, I like the darker ending but that's just me.
Have you read the book or seen the movie? How about both? Which did your prefer and why? Let me know in the comments below. And if you haven't seen the movie or read the book, you really should. I quite enjoyed them both.
Evan Bond, author of To the Wolves and Death Can Wait, is a thriller/suspense author. When not writing, he can be found hiking or camping in the beautiful state of Florida.