I saw The Ruins so you don’t have to

Last summer, I read Scott Smith’s The Ruins. It’s not the kind of book I normally go for, but I needed a palate cleanser after finishing all of Proust. Just kidding! How intellectual do you think I am? It was actually Joyce’s Ulysses. Because that took me one solid week of reading, so I wanted to follow it with a quick read, something I could finish in an hour. That book was The Ruins. It was terrible, but I liked it for that, and I promised myself that when the inevitable movie got made, I’d see the terrible movie as well, just to make sure I pictured the story correctly. Last Tuesday, I dragged three friends along to the cinema, and we sat through an hour and a half of the most faithful book-to-movie adaptation I’ve ever seen (except for the last 10 minutes, which were TOTALLY different than the book.)

Despite that ringing endorsement, I can’t recommend that any of you see this movie or read the book, especially if you caught our college production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” which was IMHO the consummate man-eating plant production of all time. What I’ll do instead is break it down the story here on the blog, so that you don’t have to go through it yourself. Ripping off Taking a cue from Bossy’s re-enactment of The African Queen, I’m going to show you some stills from the movie, and give some plot synopsis. One caveat: this is a not-for-profit blog, and I didn’t have the budget to use Barbies like Bossy does. Instead, my budget called for second-rate dollar store dolls, toys, and some other crap I had in the house, including one Ken doll.

WARNING: There are spoilers and scary plants ahead.

And now, The Ruins, a film.

After the cold open of a scared girl getting attacked by an unseen menace, we meet Stacy and Eric and Amy and Jeff. They’re vacationing in Mexico, at a resort with a pool. But I live on a farm with a pond, so we’ll make do here:

Jeff is the med student, he’s being played by Ken with no pants because my Ken doll had no pants, and there was no money in the budget for them, like so many independent films I’ve worked on in the past. Amy is his girlfriend, and she’s smart because she wears glasses, and has pink hair, evidently. Eric is the comic relief, so he’s being played by a hula monkey because the dollar store does not sell boy dolls. Stacy is his girlfriend, who is out of his league and blond. They meet Mathias, who is German and is being played by a ninja doll. In the scene pictured above, Mathias offers the girls a margarita, but Amy tells him to avoid it because it has deadly Mexican ice, which contains feces. (What are feces? Baby mice. — name that other Jenna Malone movie all you movie quote meme lovers!) Amy knows this about the ice because she is smart.

While they are chatting, Mathias casually drops the exposition / inciting incident that his brother went to see some ruins in the Mexican jungle with some archaeologist chick, and that if this group of Americans wants to join him, he’ll take them there tomorrow. But first, they must party on the beach (played by the base of a tree:)

This is the scene where Amy gets drunk and mad at Jeff and then makes out with the German after Jeff leaves. Stacy and Eric look on and make a bet on whether she will or not, the stakes being oral sex, a more important plot point in the book, believe it or not.

The next morning, Amy’s hung over and doesn’t want to go to see the ruins. Jeff packs a bag full of food, like the responsible Ken that he is, and rendezvous with Stacy, Eric, Mathias, and some other random German guy who seems so disposable that he’s being played by a plastic see-through human anatomy doll. From the resort, they take a bus to a taxi:

When they show the map of the ruins to the taxi driver, he’ all, “I no go to that place. That place bad.” and then the disposable German says, “I’ll give you cuarenta dollars to go there,” and the driver’s like, “okay, whatever.” So they take the taxi many kilometers into the jungle and get dropped off.

The taxi driver drives off, pissed about his tip or something. That’s when the smartest tourists ever are like, “how do we get back?” The answer is with cellular telephones of course! They follow their map and see some creepy Mayan kids on the ridge (played by a sheep in a train and a thing that NPW gave me) so Amy takes pictures of them while Mathias finds the secret entrance to The Ruins.

The Ruins, evidently, is a pyramid with a vine growing all over it. But before our heroes can explore the creepiness, a bunch of Mayans show up and wave arrows and guns at them and yell, “ooga booga!” Amy, who is smart, takes pictures of them and backs up into the vine, at which point the Mayans go crazy and chase the kids up the pyramid. The disposable German tries to approach them, and is rewarded with an arrow to the heart, as seen here:

(Angry Mayans played by a piggy bank, Jeero the Ugly Doll, and a cameo by Mr. Met (the plush keychain.)

The kids race to the top of the pyramid, where an excavation hole and a yellow tent are left behind. They call out for Mathia’s brother and his archaeologist friend, and are answered by the sound of a ringing cell phone coming from INSIDE THE EXCAVATION HOLE, which is weird since no one else’s phone is getting service. Before you can say “mourn your friend the disposable German,” Eric and Jeff use the convenient lowering mechanism (actually the frame of my shoe rack) to lower Mathias into the hole while Amy and Stacy look on.

But alas, the rope breaks and Mathias falls many feet to the bottom. Stacy is elected to go in after him since only the men folk are strong enough to work the winch to get him up. She has to jump because the leftover rope’s not long enough and in the process she cuts herself badly and then notes that Mathias has broken his back and that they’re alone in the dark with the creepy creeping vine. In the meantime, the folks at the top of the well create a backboard out of tent poles and nylon from the tent, and bring them both back up. And even after that the magical tent still stands, without poles, so that the Americans can spend the night there while poor broken-back German sleeps under the stars with a sleeping bag.

The next morning, we’re all kind of horrified to realize that the vine has eaten a good portion of Mathias’ legs. Jeff, the quick thinking med student, once he finishes schmacting out a hilarious “O” face, says the only logical thing to do is to cut of the German’s legs and cauterize them with a frying pan. To me, the scene looked a lot like this:

Because looking into my bag of popcorn instead of the screen was a lot more pleasant. Meanwhile, the girls seek solace in the tent where they realize that 1) there are spores on their clothes that are eating away at their tops at a much faster rate than the boy’s clothes and 2) maybe there is something wiggling inside Stacy’s skin. That’s when they go outside and hear the cell phone ring again. Because we are officially in a horror movie, the girls decide to go down into the hole and get the cell phone. But they get there and find out that the cell phone is broken and in the hands of the corpse of the woman from the cold open, and that the flowers on the vine can make cell phone noises and that the vine can move on its own with the help of some really bad CGI. The boys take them out of the hole, and they all see the thing wiggling inside Stacy’s skin, and Jeff, with his medical knowledge and trusty knife, cuts out wiggling vines from her thigh and back. And then the vines start imitating their voices, and they all fight with each other even though the plant totally started it. While they argue, the vine strangles Mathias and eats him. Then the remaining kids take a nap for some reason, because nothing bad ever happened to anyone in their sleep in any horror movie, ever. And nothing bad’s going to happen to them because THEY ARE AMERICANS!

Stacy wakes up from the sweet 4-way because she’s pretty damn sure that the vine’s still inside her. She finds the knife, and hacks away at herself, which is the most horrifying thing that’s happened to me since I ATE THE LAST TAGALONG IN THE BOX a minute ago. Once she’s done, she does her best Sissy Spacek impression, but with fewer clothes since the vine ate them:

Sissy Spacek

(There was no money left in the Tannenbaum budget for fake blood.) And her friends are like, “um, we should stop her.” But hell hath no fury like a woman infested with blood-thirsty vine rolling around in her brain, and she stabs Eric in the heart, and then stabs Jeff in the hand while Amy looks on, feeling smart.

Once Stacy realizes that she’s killed her boyfriend and the movie’s comic relief, she cuddles up to Amy and says she wants to die. Amy’s like, “okay, if you must.” Then the plants eats Eric and his little girlfriend too, while Jeff and Amy huddle and come up with a plan.

Meanwhile, the Mayans hear all the screams from the top of the pyramid, and they start to pack it up and call it a day, cause you see, they were waiting at the bottom of the pyramid the whole time because evidently the plant has been contained there and if anyone gets contaminated by the plant, they have to die. You can tell by their familiarity with the screaming that these aren’t the first tourists they’ve trapped, killed, and sacrificed to the vine. The plan is that Jeff comes down the pyramid with Amy in his arms, pretending she’s dead:

He puts her down on the ground and gives some big speech about how important they are, and how the Mayans are bad people for not learning their names before they let the plant eat them alive. While he makes an unmotivated cross to the south side of the pyramid, the camera, the Mayans, and the vine all ignore Amy’s not-dead body at the base of the west side. Jeff rattles off the names of all his dead friends except the disposable German, but do you know who DOESN’T care about the dead, vapid tourists? The audience! And moreover THE MAYANS. Jeff finishes up his speech by yelling, “AND HER NAME WAS AAAAAMY!” which is the clue for Amy to get up and run to the Jeep and drive it away, thus infecting the jungle, the Mayans, the jeep, and the rest of the world with the spores of the man-eating vine and introducing the possibility of a fucking sequel. Then Jeff gets shot in the head by the Mayan leader.

In the book, all the kids died, which was nice, but in the movie Amy had to live, you see, because she is smart, and she didn’t want to go in the first place, and she is needed in this world to prevent other Americans from imbibing drinks with Mexican ice. And also maybe she’ll also warn other people not go to traipsing around ruins in Mexican jungles and shit.

So that’s more or less the plot. I hope you enjoyed it more than I did!

A Daily Tannenbaum Production


38 responses to this post.

  1. I started laughing hysterically when I saw the first picture and then couldn’t stop.

    I read zero words so I still know nothing other than you have mini martini glasses!!!

  2. Oh my god this was amazing! I like your version MUCH better than the actual movie and I haven’t even seen the movie! 🙂

  3. I read this blog and still not sure where you were going with this one.guess bewing old makes you dense,I don’t know(third base)

  4. There are so many things wrong with this post. Fortunately for you, there are even more things that are OH SO RIGHT.

    I think it’s amazing that you made a trip to the Dollar Store just so that you could recreate a movie, making it unnecessary for us to pay $9 to view it ourselves. Thank you, Noelle.

  5. This was, by far, just as hysterical as the movie itself, which as you now, was pretty freakin funny.

  6. I was actually wondering why the Dollar Store was on your list of errand stops yesterday. It was totally worth the trip, obviously.

    Also, I have to ask… did your landlesbian see you making this? I would love to hear what you would have told anyone who’d asked what you were doing with Barbies and human anatomy dolls in your backyard. 🙂

    Well done, Christmas Tree. Well done.

  7. Posted by tinetastic on April 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Thank you Noelle for saving me $10 and an hour and a half of sitting. It was well worth the laughs with your creative pictures.

    PS if you ever decide to explain another movie, let me know I still have all my barbies and some pants for ken.

  8. I freaking loved the reenactment, it was way better than the original. BTW, if there is a sequel, we’ll be in the front row. again.

  9. and the excavation hole work was pure genius

  10. The Ken without pants gave the whole thing kind of a dirty feel to it…

  11. That was amazing. The popcorn picture totally cracked me up. And I love that Mr. Met had a cameo. I hope it didn’t go to his head though. . .

  12. Posted by Kate on April 11, 2008 at 8:14 am

    MR.MET!!! Yay! I’m so glad to see him make a cameo.

    This blog was awesome. Just the right amount of Friday entertainment I needed.

  13. Posted by arrbecca on April 11, 2008 at 8:17 am

    ludicrous in a good way.

  14. Holy shitballs! That’s one effort-filled blog post. I admire your creativity and your stamina to pull this off. You are Blogger of the Year, Noelle. OK, maybe tied with NPW for the whole CYOB thing. Titles aside, I am in the company of greatness.

  15. Also, did you make Amy’s glasses out of a black paperclip? If so, I am even more impressed with your resourcefulness than I was before.

    Also (also), is it weird that now I almost want to see this terrible movie that it would otherwise never have occurred to me to see? (Yes, it’s weird. And I will resist.)

  16. That was highly educational! Thanks for sparing me the formality of actually seeing the movie. Which I would not have done anyway.

  17. That was fabulous!

    And every time I see (grown-up) Jena Malone, I think of her as the snotty girl in Stepmom. Another one of those movies I just can’t NOT watch when it’s on TV, and I don’t know why.

  18. Yes! I loved it — especially the photos, fan-tastic! Though I’m a little stuck on this line: “and some other crap I had in the house, including one Ken doll.” Ken? Really? Do I dare ask why?

  19. Wow. Thank you, Christmas Tree. Not only did you save me $9, but you completely made my morning. Bravo.

  20. Donnie Darko!

    I’m not done reading yet, but this is so freakin’ funny! Thanks Noelle.

  21. Wow, I think you may have put more effort into this blog than they did into making the movie. Hilarious!

  22. Hahaha!

    that was awesome and amazing and about everything else that means, “You are great.”

  23. Posted by Jennifer M. on April 11, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    That? Was awesome. Dare I say, it was Legen . . . wait for it . . . dary. Are you taking requests for future films to be staged so that your adoring audience doesn’t have to fork over the big bucks for the multiplex?

  24. I have a feeling that was way better than the movie. Or is that just the vine in my brain?

    Nice work, NT. You really raised the bar with this one.

  25. Oh. My. God.

    I love that pantless Ken doll AKA Jeff so, so much.

  26. I couldn’t stop looking at pantless Ken!


  27. HILARIOUS! Totally the laugh I needed today.

    I have to say, I’m thrilled to hear your review/non recommendation of The Ruins.

    A friend of mine recommended I read it several years ago, back when I was in NYC, and I was all “Um…don’t think this is exactly my type of book” but he kept saying how much I’d love it — glad I listened to instinct instead. I’ll be promptly skipping this one me thinks, thanks in part to your lovely review.

  28. Posted by elizabeth on April 12, 2008 at 11:12 am

    A PLUS for creativity.

    It brought to mind the time you were in sixth grade and I picked you up at a friend’s house. I asked what you had done and you told me that you played with Barbie dolls. I replied that I thought you were a little old for that. You then explained that you were pretending that Ken was a pimp and that the Barbies were the hookers!

    So it doesn’t surprise me that you are still playing with a pantless Ken and his entourage!

  29. EWWWHHH…Thanks I think i will take your recommendation and definitely Not see it or read it.

  30. Posted by Jess on April 13, 2008 at 2:40 am

    Hi-larious! And I can just imagine the Grey Boy sitting up in the movie theater with you and the cynical comments that would emerge.

  31. I think your mom needs to tell more stories about when you were young.

  32. this




    i so enjoyed reading it.

  33. Oh my god, you are hilarious.

    This all reminds me of junior year of high school, when my English class was asked to split into groups and make films of ourselves re-enacting The Great Gatsby. My group thought it would be funny to use our old Barbies (including Barbie’s Corvette, of course) instead of ourselves as actors. Um, the rest of the class did not think it was so funny. They thought it was weird. Obviously, they were lame.

  34. That was awesome. It was especially great since I’m too much of a wussypants to actually go to horror movies, so here you gave me an opportunity to ‘watch’ a sterilized, but very informative!, version of this one (which, even if I DID go to horror movies, I would not have gone to because even the trailers are terrible).

    I love the dolls. I also love the idea of you running around and setting all this up. Hilarious.

    And that one scene resembled scenes I’ve seen of other movies…it’s curious how they stick in whole scenes that look JUST like bags of popcorn…

  35. I wish you could win an Oscar for this!

  36. Oh my gawd, I love it! This was hilarious and obviously superior to any “professional” version!

    I dated a guy named Jeff. He looked a lot like your no-pants-Ken Jeff except he liked to wear mens bikini underwear. Have I mentioned that we aren’t dating anymore?

    I made my way here via Stefanie Says and I have to let you know how horrible the comment bomb was that you received this week. Really awful. People need to get a sense of humor and grow a conscience. I saw something similar to this when I first started blogging. I don’t understand why people get so ugly in anonymous groups. I’m sorry this happened to you.

  37. […] cupcakes are meant to be shared.  So that’s why I invited over the entire cast of The Ruins.  We split a twelve-pack of Milwaukee’s Best (aka The Beast) because it is the crappiest of […]

  38. Posted by wellthenhowaboutthisone on December 16, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    It’s a long and boring story how I found your blog, but I’m glad I did. Hilarious summary of The Ruins (which I saw myself), and I love the trouble you went to with the reenactment.

    You know . . . I ALSO do things so you don’t have to. In fact, I was a bit startled reading your post title!

    JD at I Do Things

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