Wednesday, April 09, 2008

As For The Ruins...

If you have any recollection of how long it took me to offer up an opinion of No Country For Old Men then what I'm about to say ought to elicit a groan - I need to see The Ruins again before I really have a firm grasp on what I thought of it. This time, however, it's not because the film cast off my expectations so violently like NCFOM did, but rather for exterior reasons - the audience I saw it with was filled with total douche-bags who wouldn't shut the fuck up the entire movie, including one lovely woman seated directly behind me who seemed to wait until every quiet moment to let out another violent belch. Nice.

So I'm worried my environment might've negatively colored my reaction to the film... although, judging by the opinions I've heard from people I do trust, the blame may belong more to the film than I might be willing to admit at this juncture. In fact, I highly recommend you check out what my friend Sean had to say about the film - he'd read the book much more recently before going in to the film than I had (I read it quickly over a couple of days early last year) and was able to pin-point a lot of changes made from book to screen that did not (and, to be fair, did) work.

Anyhoo, some mention of spoilers ahead.

Sean makes mention of what I think was my main problem with the film - it felt really rushed. Especially the ending, but throughout the entire film there was scant attention paid to a lot of the factors from the book that helped to ratchet up the tension so vividly. In the film, it felt as if the entire ordeal lasted only a couple of days, while the book stretches their entrapment into what feels like a slightly longer frame of time - a week, maybe? Their exhaustion, starvation, dehydration... all of these factors felt much more expertly drawn out in the novel, and while it's certainly fair to say that the constraints of a ninety-minute movie versus a several hundred page book make this sort of condensation necessary, I still feel as if the film short-changed a lot of what made the story feel so real and so horrifying in its original incarnation.

I didn't have much of a problem with the switching up of character arcs from novel to film - although Sean does highlight how some some of these changes strand characters (especially the men) - and I would've been fine with Amy's escape at the end if any sort of attention were paid to the fact that she's now gone and doomed the rest of the world with her clothes saturated with killer spores and all... but no, the movie just ends?

One thing I will give the film is all of the actors were incredibly good. The two women especially - Laura Ramsey was heart-breaking, and Jena Malone crafted a character I had no idea she had in her. Flirty and self-destructive and sort of spacey, reduced to an incredibly sad girlishness by the end, Malone's performance really hit me hard - the way she uses her voice is amazing, all broken chirps. Even outside of a horror film it'd be a solid, strange and eye-catching performance, but here it stands as something, someone, I don't think I've ever seen portrayed in quite this same way in a horror film before. The guys are good as well, but moreso Jonathan Tucker since Shawn Ashmore is given almost nothing to work with. And Tucker's character sort of fizzles at the end with a sacrifice that should feel much sharper than it ends up coming off.

Also, I thought the vines and the "talking" flowers were nicely designed and used. Yes, they looked silly, but I thought they straddled the line between silly and uncanny pretty well - better than I feared they would - where your first instinct was to giggle but then the longer you looked the more wrong they seemed.

Well okay, I did have more to say than I thought I would. The thing that's missing here, the thing that I worry my belch-riddled first screening took away from me, was the building sense of dread that the book built so richly. I can't yet make up my mind as to whether the film simply lost that in translation or if I might find it easier to maintain the mood without a crowd full of distractions surrounding me. I'm hoping to figure out a time when I can count on no crowd (and judging by the box office receipts, that shouldn't be too hard) to watch it again, and really be able to tell if the tension is there or not. So stay tuned!


Unknown said...

I haven't read the book, but plan to. I was hugely disappointed with the movie. There was no build-up, not much of a back-story, and I agree felt very rushed. The best part was when the girls went into the pyramid to look for the cell phone. I was expecting a lot more "inside" shots, and also more history about why the possessed plants got so possessed in the first place. I'm hoping the book can fill in those gaps for me. I didn't hate it, I just thought it had more potential than what was shown on screen. Laura Ramsey's performance was spectacular, though. Her screams of pain and misery were so convincing! Brava! The rest of it... meh.

Jason Adams said...

You'll get more of the relationships between the characters, jillybean, a lot more, and plenty more set-up (them on vacation before going to the ruins) if you read the book. You're not going to get a whole lot more info on what the vines are or where they're from, from what I remember, except maybe some speculation by the main characters. There aren't any flashbacks to Mayans fighting the plants or a meteor falling out of space or anything. Thankfully. ;-)

Joe Reid said...

The book's not going to give you much in the way of backstory for the plant, but after spending so much time with it, you start to understand just how long it's been there. It was less "possessed" to me than "evolutionarily demonic".

LOVED Laura Ramsey, she's definitely one I'll be looking for down the road.