By: Tyler Baker
Horror is a genre for the audience. Desperation, mutilation, fornication: All of the best vices of life rolled into 90 minutes of hack heaven cinema. Plots are sacrificed to draw onto the audience’s emotional engagement (excitement, terror, etc.). With that said, Scott Smith’s self-adapted film, The Ruins, takes whatever accomplishment he had as a best-selling novelist and replaces them with failure to convey horror onto film.
The general consensus is that Smith missed the point of his own novel. Paperback and pictures are two separate monsters which Smith and first-time director Carter Smith seem to misunderstand. With the novel only a year behind, Smith clearly wanted to turn his horror tale into a film during its inception. But if you’re going to make a movie, just make one; don’t write a best-seller and then try to reinterpret it for film. Clearly, the aesthetic stress becomes too great.
The film feels caught up on a long stretch of speculations, composed of the driving theme and then 20 minutes of bloody, excessive brutality. What “the ruins” actually are deserved more story and communication, the very kind that is constantly misconstrued between the cast both verbally and morally. All we know about the main characters is that they made a wrong choice on their vacation spot. Oh, and that the kid from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Jonathan Tucker) wants to be a doctor.
The work is without consistency, except for revealing bits about the story in timed increments. This was followed by a plot twist inserted in the last 20 minutes (which I title, “Last Call”), and a packed-up ending completely devoid of any explanation or closure. Smith never had the vision for film. That’s why his book was a hit.
Overlooking the inability of both screenwriter and director to convey basic humanistic rationality, the story had potential. This, of course, leads to anger when the audience is never paid off, then eventual hatred that their money and evening were wasted on a trip into the life of white suburban brats who catch the sharp end of karma.
With a supporting cast of Tucker, Jena Malone (Donnie Darko), Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) and Laura Ramsey (The Covenant), the talent should be there. All the actors have the capability to raise the film’s emotional charge, but there seems to be no direction in their performance. Even when something discerning and appealing transpires, the film, like a wave, rolls over it, swallows it and never brings it up again. If only the film could be left in the ruins, then maybe there would be some conclusion…or at least we’d be rid of a ridiculous creation.