It’s been a while since I’ve read a pure horror book—a story that sucks the hope right out of you by the time you reach the end. As you might know, Stephen King thought THE RUINS by Scott Smith was one of the scariest novels of 2006, and based on his recommendation, I bought the book, even before I knew it was going to be a movie. Of course, it’s taken me a couple of years to get to it, but that’s another blog entry.
What I’m here to tell you now is that this book was just as horrific as King promised.
Without giving anything away, this starts as a pretty simple story of two post-college couples who go to Mexico for a vacation. They meet a German tourist who persuades them to come with him to an archeological dig to find his brother—a guy who followed a female archeologist to the remote site because he thinks he’s in lurve. But what they find at these “ruins” isn’t exactly the dig they’re hoping for. It’s something much, much worse. In fact, let’s even say that this isn’t merely a story about an external monster so much as what happens internally to these characters as they’re tested to their limits after they’re forced to stay at these ruins. (Hence, the title, which refers to the characters as well as the setting.)
This book is partly an exercise in suspense and partly an exploration of humanity. It faces the fact that not every character is a hero. In fact, sometimes the characters are downright disgusting and frustrating in their cowardice, but I think that’s real. THE RUINS also points out the arrogance of tourists, the feeling that we somehow have immunity from danger in a foreign place and nothing can touch us because we’re tourists, by God.
Yet that perception is shattered here, as unthinkable things happen. In fact, if you’ve got a weak stomach, this isn’t the book for you. The gore isn’t just graphic—it’s described with gritty and sometimes repetitive detail. But you all know that this doesn’t bother me, especially since I was too hooked into the what’s-going-to-happen-next domino effect of a great narrative. Best of all (in a horror-lover’s opinion), I dragged the weighty finale around with me for the rest of the day, trying to shake it off.
I couldn’t, and that’s what made this story so effective, IMHO.
I’m going to try to see the movie soon, and I hear that the script takes some liberties with the storyline and characters, which is fine with me since it’ll give me a few surprises. But I’m really curious to see just how gory this film will get and how “Hollywood” they make the book’s ending.
I’ll let you know….