Last year, Scott Smith’s long-awaited follow-up to A Simple Plan arrived in bookstores and proceeded to cleave readers down the middle. What I mean by that, of course, is that some people loved it, some people hated it, although judging from the caliber of some of the negative reviews on Amazon.com it might have been nice had the book literally cloven some of these people in twain. Reviews for The Ruins fell this way: people who hated it thought the characters were dumb and unlikable. People who loved it thought the menacing evil of the titular entity was well-articulated. I happen to love reading about dumb, unlikable Americans getting eaten, so I loved it.
Stephen King has said that the worst thing that could be said about the book was that it felt like a short story that had been inflated beyond necessary. He should know. His short story, “The Raft,” is the archetype for the “college student stranded someplace and menaced by a primordial evil” story. I can see the argument. The novel blew by in mere hours. It felt like something much shorter than its 300+ pages. But although it is a quick read, its better passages were able to… uh, get under my skin. As it were.
But it also felt enormously calculated. If there were ever any book that seemed destined to be made into a movie, this is it. But that’s exactly the problem. Its premise — five dumb college students find themselves in mortal jeopardy — groans beneath the weight of some serious cinematic baggage, and if the theme hadn’t been pummeled into the dirt by an endless parade of bad horror, it might stand a chance. King’s own novella, “The Mist” suffered a similar fate last year. As a work of horror fiction it established the precedent for the “group of ordinary yokels trapped someplace and menaced by a primordial evil” archetype, and in the time it took to become a film twenty-plus years have spooled through the world’s projectors. It no longer seems fresh.
Will that keep me out of the theater on April 4? Not likely. Here’s the new red band trailer for The Ruins. Incidentally, Scott Smith also wrote the screenplay and Jena Malone plays one of the teenagers. And after the jump, check out a pair of alternate one-sheet designs. I’m especially intrigued by the beach scene version. It’s an interesting approach.