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Look out for more coverage of
The Ruins in our magazines

SUBJECT: The Ruins

Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker, Joe Anderson, Shawn Ashmore
Based on the novel by Scott Smith, The Ruins follows a group of young men and women on a fateful hike through the Mexican jungle, where they encounter a mysterious and sinister force possessing the vines around a ruined temple. Smith adapted the screenplay himself (having previously adapted another of his novels to the screen, the noirish heist thriller A Simple Plan) with help from first-time director Carter Smith (no relation to Scott), who was brought on board on the basis of his impressive short film Bugcrush. Last December, Hollywood Hotline was invited to the edit bay where Smith was finishing the film, which opens April 4.

Q: There are some pretty gory scenes in this film. Were you going for that tone throughout?:
Director Carter SmithA: It's brutal, but it's not mean, if that makes sense. I mean, I think that there's something about the violence in this film that comes from the characters trying to help each other and trying to save each other. It's choices that they're making that get them into worse and worse and worse situations. But they've got good intentions. And I think that is what makes it a little bit different from violence that comes out of brutality or masochism, like some of the other films that are considered torture films. This is definitely brutal, but there's a reason to it, or for it.

Q: How did you approach it in terms of the Horror genre? Is it a creature-based film? Or more like a gory Hostel-type film?:
Laura RamseyA: I always approached it as a character movie. I always feel like it has more to do with--I mean, this is how we all talked about it from the beginning--had more to do with a film like Lifeboat than Hostel. It's about these characters and what they go through and what the situation that they're in does to them. And when the survival instinct kicks in, how it affects them and who they turn into. Because all of them start at one place and where they are at the end of the film is such a completely different [place], physically, mentally, emotionally. To watch these kids change and transform into what they become was always what I found really fascinating about the story. It's almost incidental that it's [a Horror film]. I don't really consider it a monster movie. It's more horrific.

Q: Like a disaster movie?:
Laura Ramsey, Shawn AshmoreA: Like a survival movie. Like a Lord of the Flies. At the same time, I always loved movies like Cannibal Holocaust and those strange '70s pseudo-documentaries, survival-type films. But definitely more about character than effects or set pieces. Just by the nature of the story, you've got stuff in the story that pushes boundaries and is pretty confrontational in terms of what's happening, what they're doing to each other.

Q: Do you feel like directing a short adequately prepared you for this?
A: Yeah, the scale of it was quite different, but I come from the world of photography. I've been a still photographer for years. And in a way, that prepared me really well, too, because I'm used to assembling teams of people and sets and props and hair and makeup and locations. On a still shoot it can be a couple hundred people, most of them it's not, but I'm pretty comfortable forming a group and then working as a creative group with lots of input. I wasn't used to working in a vacuum. I'm pretty used to collaborating, which I think was probably the most helpful.

Q: How closely does the plot follow the book?
A: The film is basically the same, but we made a couple of changes that just felt more cinematic. It was kind of great to have Scott writing the script as well. So he was able to play around with some stuff that he had maybe thought about but just didn't work for the book that worked really well for the film.

Q: Have you made some changes to the nature of the monster?
A: Not really. I mean, we made a decision early on. If you've read the book, there's this aspect where it speaks and forms false sentences. It is pretty capable of f---ing with people. And we made the decision early on to focus on the fact that it mimics sounds that it's heard. And it's one step less evolved than maybe how it was in the book. Because I kind of felt like you're walking a pretty thin line when you're making a movie with a killer vine that, in the book, talks.

Q: There's no explanation of where the vine comes from in the book. Did you feel the need to do that in the film?
A: Luckily, no. That was something that I always loved about the book, was that you never were spoon-fed any answers as to why this has happened, where this has come from, how it came to by. And I think there's something more frightening about not knowing. So that was something we definitely held onto. I think it was also quite good that Scott wrote the script, because he was able to really defend a lot of aspects of the book--not that they needed defending--but he was able to provide a really good sort of ammunition. Like, "This really worked in the book, and this is why. And this is why it'll work in a film as well."

Dimitri Baveas, Jonathan Tucker, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson, Jena Malone

Written by Cindy White. Back to top

Images above © DreamWorks SKG
Feature © 2008 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #695, May 2008 cover

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