The Cabin in the Woods
|The Cabin in the Woods|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Drew Goddard|
|Produced by||Joss Whedon|
|Written by||Drew Goddard
|Music by||David Julyan|
|Edited by||Lisa Lassek|
|Mutant Enemy Productions|
|Running time||95 minutes|
The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 American satirical horror film directed by Drew Goddard in his directorial debut, produced by Joss Whedon, and written by Whedon and Goddard. The film stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams.
Goddard and Whedon, having worked together previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, wrote the screenplay in three days, describing it as an attempt to "revitalize" the slasher film genre and as a critical satire on torture porn. The A.V. Club, elaborating on this description, wrote, "Where Scream put a postmodern twist on slasher films, The Cabin in the Woods takes on the whole genre and twists even harder... The script brings to the fore Whedon’s love of subverting clichés while embracing them and teasing out their deeper meaning."
Filming took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, from March to May 2009 on an estimated budget of $30 million. Scheduled to be released on February 5, 2010, the release was delayed until January 14, 2011 so that the film could be converted into 3D. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's financial troubles then delayed the release indefinitely. The distribution rights were bought by Lionsgate in April 2011, who cancelled the planned 3D conversion. The film then premiered on March 9, 2012 at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas and was released in the United States on April 13, 2012. The film was both a critical and financial success receiving positive reviews, featuring on Metacritic's best films of 2012 list and grossing over $65 million worldwide.
Working from a hidden underground facility, senior technicians Gary Sitterson and Steve Hadley discuss plans for a mysterious ritual, reportedly one of several taking place around the world. Specialist Wendy Lin discloses that a similar operation undertaken by their Swedish counterparts has just ended in failure.
Meanwhile, American college students Dana Polk, Holden McCrea, Marty Mikalski, Jules Louden, and Curt Vaughan are spending their weekend at a seemingly deserted cabin in the forest. It soon becomes clear that Sitterson and Hadley are manipulating this setting from afar, even intoxicating the teenagers with psychotropic drugs that gradually hinder rational thinking while increasing libido. After the door to the cabin's darkened cellar swings open on its own during a tipsy game of Truth or Dare, for example, both technicians coerce their charges into investigating the contents within.
The group soon uncovers a plentiful assortment of bizarre articles, including an old diary once maintained by Patience Buckner, onetime cabin resident abused by her sadistic family. Dana, who takes an interest in Patience, subsequently recites incantations from the journal and inadvertently summons the zombified Buckner clan. Leaving Dana, Holden, and Marty behind with the book, Curt and Jules retire outside—where Hadley successfully induces them to have sex. Set upon by marauding Buckners, Jules is decapitated but Curt escapes, sounding the alarm. Marty, a frequent marijuana smoker, becomes justifiably paranoid, declaring that unseen forces have been toying with their crisis. Locating concealed surveillance equipment, he theorizes that the predicament may be a gimmick for reality television before being dragged off to be killed by Judah Buckner.
Terrified, Curt, Holden, and Dana attempt escape in their RV, though Sitterson triggers a tunnel collapse, rendering the highway impassable. Curt jumps a ravine on his motorcycle in a desperate bid to reach an adjoining road, but is killed crashing into a camouflaged force shield—apparently erected by the technicians. His demise convinces Dana that Marty's concerns may have been founded.
Veering off the road, the RV plummets into a nearby lake after Father Buckner surfaces inside and stabs Holden. Dana survives the impact, but is confronted by Matthew Buckner when she swims ashore. As he delivers his final blow, the Facility staff celebrate the completion of their ritual. Sitterson receives a phone call informing him that Marty is still alive, having been smoking joints from a stash that had not been treated and rendering him immune to the effects of the psychotropic drugs. Rescuing Dana, Marty reveals that he was able to overpower his assailant upon being taken into an obscured elevator. They infiltrate the Facility, where a menagerie of monsters are imprisoned. Dana observes a cenobite-like creature clutching a globe she observed in the cabin's cellar, indicating that the items there dictate which monster will be unleashed on its concurrent occupants. She and Marty are cornered by a private security team, but before they can be captured, manage to release the monsters, which run rampant throughout and slaughter the Facility's staff.
Upon entering an underground temple, the two survivors meet the project Director who explains that every year worldwide rituals commence to appease malevolent beings identified only as "Ancient Ones" living beneath the Facility. The Ancient Ones are kept in perpetual slumber through an annual pars pro toto sacrifice of five young people embodying certain archetypes: the Whore (Jules), the Athlete (Curt), the Scholar (Holden), the Fool (Marty), and the Virgin (Dana). The order in which intended victims perish is flexible, as long as the Whore is first and the Virgin is last (or optionally survives, so long as the others die). The Director urges Dana to shoot Marty, completing the ritual, but they are interrupted by a werewolf which Marty fends off after it attacks Dana. Patience Buckner arrives, killing the Director, and Marty pushes them into a chasm.
Dana and Marty accept that it might be better for another species to take humanity's place if this is the price of its continued existence. They share a final joint as an Ancient One finally stirs, destroying the Facility as its giant hand emerges from beneath the cabin.
- Kristen Connolly as Dana Polk
- Chris Hemsworth as Curt Vaughan
- Anna Hutchison as Jules Louden
- Fran Kranz as Marty Mikalski
- Jesse Williams as Holden McCrea
- Richard Jenkins as Gary Sitterson, a technician who works at the Facility.
- Bradley Whitford as Steve Hadley, a technician who works at the Facility.
- Brian White as Daniel Truman, a security guard who works in the Facility's Control Room.
- Amy Acker as Wendy Lin, a technician that works in the Facility's Chemical Department.
- Sigourney Weaver as The Director, the leader of the Facility.
- Tim de Zarn as Mordecai, "the Harbinger" who works for the Facility.
- Jodelle Ferland as Patience Buckner
- Matt Drake as Judah Buckner
- Dan Payne as Mathew Buckner
- Dan Shea as Father Buckner
- Maya Massar as Mother Buckner
- Tom Lenk as Ronald, an Intern that works at the Facility.
- Heather Doerksen as Accountant, a member of the Facility's Accounting Department.
- Rukiya Bernard as Labcoat Girl, a worker at the Facility's Chemical Department.
With a production budget of $30 million, principal photography began on March 9, 2009 in Vancouver, and concluded in May 2009. Joss Whedon co-wrote the script with Cloverfield screenwriter Drew Goddard, who also directed the film, marking his directorial debut. Goddard previously worked with Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel as a writer.
Whedon described the film as an attempt to revitalize the horror genre which he, along with director/co-writer Goddard, felt had "devolved" with the introduction of "torture porn". He called it a "loving hate letter" to the genre, continuing:
On another level it's a serious critique of what we love and what we don't about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be all right but at the same time hoping they’ll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don't like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had swung a little too far in that direction.
Concerning the sheer number of creatures to be designed and made for the film, AFX Studio's David LeRoy Anderson estimated that "close to a thousand" people were turned into one of around 60 different monster types. The task necessitated renting a much larger facility to use as a workspace, as a crew of around 60 people were recruited. The producers told them to commence work on December 15, 2008, ahead of the official January 1, 2009 start date. They only completed the work by the March 9, 2009 production date because, as Anderson stated "We had nearly seventy people at peak, but in effect we had a hundred and forty people, because everybody had at least two jobs...it was crazy, but people had an incredible time...none of us are ever going to forget it, and we're never all going to be in the same room again."
The underground complex, elevators, and the control room were all sets, but for several wide shots, the British Columbia Institute of Technology's Aerospace building was used. Production designer Martin Whist referenced Stanley Kubrick and commented: "It's very high-tech industrial, and it's a brand new building, never been shot in before...I wanted [the elevators] to be without any controls...to almost feel like a glamorized freight elevator...The lobby I wanted to look slightly utilitarian, contemporary and institutional...sharp and almost characterless." Goddard called the control room "mission control at NASA", with production design aimed at grounding the room's look in "the reality of governments and institutions".
The Cabin in the Woods was slated for wide release on February 5, 2010 and then delayed until January 14, 2011 so the film could be converted to 3D. However, on June 17, 2010, MGM announced that the film would be delayed indefinitely due to ongoing financial difficulties at the studio.
On March 16, 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported the following: "New (MGM) chief executives Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum are seeking to sell both Red Dawn and the horror film The Cabin in the Woods, the last two pictures produced under a previous regime, as they try to reshape the 87-year-old company." A distribution sale to Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation was announced on April 28, 2011, with some industry news outlets reporting plans for a Halloween 2011 release. On July 20, 2011, Lionsgate announced that they had acquired the distribution rights to the film and set a release date of April 13, 2012. Goddard described the deal as "a dream," stating "there's no question that Lionsgate is the right home for Cabin...you look at all the films that inspired Cabin - most of them were released by Lionsgate in the first place!"
The Cabin in the Woods was released for Blu-ray in North America on September 18, 2012. The Blu-ray features an audio commentary by Goddard and Whedon, a documentary about the making of the film, and a question and answer session at the WonderCon convention.
The Cabin in the Woods earned $42,073,277 in North America, along with $23,829,690 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $65,902,967. It is currently the 92nd highest grossing film of 2012 internationally, 79th domestically.
The film opened in North America on April 13, 2012, opening with $5.5 million and went on to gross $14.7 million in its opening weekend in the United States at 2,811 theaters, taking the number three spot. The Cabin in the Woods closed in theaters on July 12, 2012 with $42.0 million. In total earnings, its highest-grossing countries after North America were the United Kingdom ($8.5 million), France ($2.4 million) and Russia ($2.3 million).
The film received critical acclaim. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 92% approval rating with an average rating of 7.8/10, based on 230 reviews. It offers the consensus: "The Cabin in the Woods is an astonishing meta-feat, capable of being funny, strange, and scary -- frequently all at the same time." On Metacritic, the film achieved an average score of 72 out of 100, based on a rating of 40 reviews, signifying it had "generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave a positive review of the film, saying that "The Cabin in the Woods has been constructed almost as a puzzle for horror fans to solve. Which conventions are being toyed with? Which authors and films are being referred to? Is the film itself an act of criticism?" Ebert gave the film three out of four stars. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, calling it "fiendishly funny". Travers praised Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz for their performances, and wrote, "By turning splatter formula on its empty head, Cabin shows you can unleash a fire-breathing horror film without leaving your brain or your heart on the killing floor."
Cinema Blend's Editor in Chief, Katey Rich, gave the film 4.5 out of 5 stars and wrote,
"Even when the story sticks firmly in standard horror territory, this particular group of attractive kids is especially fun to spend time with... You'll have to see it, and you really have to see it if you love horror, hate horror, or have any interest in seeing how the genre can function as a playground for something completely fresh."
She praised Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford "in roles that are more fun to discover as you go along - they do get a lot of the best jokes, though, and their scenes show a lot of Goddard's skill in handling the rhythm of a scene." Jenkins and Whitford were also admired by The A.V. Club ("Whitford and Jenkins clearly delight in the verbose script") and by Wired, whose reviewer (granting 9 of 10 stars) called Cabin "a smart sendup of horror movies and mythology...with a peculiar relish that testifies to the moviemakers' love of genre film... a smart, sarcastic and deliriously fun journey into the belly of the horror beast." He cited the "witty banter, creative twists" and "clippy, quippy dialog that lifted Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to cult status." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post, giving the movie 3 of 4 stars, wrote,
"A fiendishly clever brand of meta-level genius propels The Cabin in the Woods, a pulpy, deceivingly insightful send-up of horror movies that elicits just as many knowing chuckles as horrified gasps. [It] comes not only to praise the slasher-, zombie- and gore-fests of yore but to critique them, elaborating on their grammatical elements and archetypal figures even while searching for ways to put them to novel use. The danger in such a loftily ironic approach is that everything in the film appears with ready-made quotation marks around it... But by then, the audience will have picked up on the infectiously goofy vibe of an enterprise that, from its first sprightly moments, clearly has no intention of taking itself too seriously."
Eric Goldman, writing for IGN, called the movie "an incredibly clever and fun take on classic horror movie tropes." SF Gate said, "The cliches come at an onslaught pace" in "a wonderfully conceived story that gives a bigger than life and fascinating explanation for why so many horror movie cliches exist in the first place... By the time the ride is over, director Drew Goddard and co-writers Goddard and Joss Whedon will change course three or four times, nodding and winking but never losing momentum." Of the screenplay by Goddard and Whedon, a CNN reviewer praised "these horror hipsters' acidic, postmodern designs on one of the movie industry's hoariest, least respected staples... the dialogue is always a notch or three smarter and snappier than you'd expect."
Keith Phipps addressed
"the difficult challenge of putting across a satirical film with a serious body count. Cabin touches on everything from The Evil Dead and Friday The 13th to the mechanized mutilations of the Saw series while digging deeper into the Lovecraftian roots of horror in an attempt to reveal what makes the genre work... It’s an exercise in metafiction that, while providing grisly fun, never distances viewers. And it’s entertaining, while asking the same question of viewers and characters alike: Why come to a place you knew all along was going to be so dark and dangerous?"
While Cabin pleased horror aficionados, many movie reviewers did not share the wonder. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, calling herself "a wised-up viewer," gave the film a "B−" grade and said, "The movie's biggest surprise may be that the story we think we know from modern scary cinema — that horror is a fun, cosmic game, not much else — here turns out to be pretty much the whole enchilada." She shrugged off the talents of Whitford and Jenkins: "These two experienced actors provide the film's adult-level entertainment."
Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times believed that the film "is an inside joke" and also said, "The laughs [in the film] come easily, the screams not so much." David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter remarked, "It’s just too bad the movie is never much more than a hollow exercise in self-reflexive cleverness that’s not nearly as ingenious as it seems to think."
A.O. Scott of The New York Times said, "Novelty and genre traditionalism often fight to a draw. Too much overt cleverness has a way of spoiling dumb, reliable thrills. And despite the evident ingenuity and strenuous labor that went into it, The Cabin in the Woods does not quite work." Scott added,
"Some of the pleasure of the first (and best) part of The Cabin in the Woods comes from trying to see just over the narrative horizon and figure out what these incompatible sets of clichés have to do with each other. Two distinct kinds of movie are being yoked, by violence, together, and the performers inhabit their familiar roles with unusual wit."
Rex Reed's New York Observer review for the film contains many factual errors when summarizing the plot of the movie, which caught the ire of fans and internet bloggers who questioned his professionalism.
Awards and nominations
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Nominee(s)||Result|
|British Fantasy Award||November 3, 2013||Best Screenplay||Joss Whedon
|Central Ohio Film Critics Association||January 3, 2013||Best Original Screenplay||Drew Goddard
|Best Picture||5th place|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||December 17, 2012||Most Promising Filmmaker||Drew Goddard||Nominated|
|Detroit Film Critics Society||December 14, 2012||Best Screenplay||Drew Goddard
|Empire Award||March 24, 2013||Best Horror||Nominated|
|Fangoria Chainsaw Award||June 13, 2013||Best Screenplay||Drew Goddard
|Best Supporting Actor||Fran Kranz||Won|
|Best Wide-Release Film||Won|
|Best Makeup/Creature FX||David LeRoy Anderson||Won|
|Golden Trailer Award||May 31, 2012||Best Horror TV Spot||Won|
|Best Standee for Feature Film||Nominated|
|Hugo Award||September 1, 2013||Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form||Drew Goddard
|Kansas City Film Critics Circle||December 16, 2012||Best Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film||Won|
|Motion Picture Sound Editors||February 17, 2013||Best Sound Editing - Music in a Feature Film||Clint Bennett (supervising music editor)
Tony Lewis (music editor)
Julie Pearce (music editor)
|Online Film Critics Society||December 24, 2012||Best Original Screenplay||Joss Whedon
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||December 18, 2012||Overlooked Film of the Year||Nominated|
|San Diego Film Critics Society||December 11, 2012||Best Original Screenplay||Drew Goddard
|Saturn Award||June 26, 2013||Best Horror or Thriller Film||Won|
|Best Writing||Drew Goddard
|Toronto Film Critics Association||December 18, 2012||Best First Feature||Drew Goddard||Nominated|
On April 17, 2012, Titan Books released the Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion. It features interviews and behind-the-scenes photos. It also features concept art of unused creatures like the Alien Creature, a Demon, a Fish Man (which resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon), a Seaweed Creature, a Shark-Like Creature, the Alien, the Butch (a butcher-like monster), the Exterminator (an exterminator monster), the Extraterrestrial, the Hunter (a zombie-like Native American), the Magician, the Pirate, the Surgeon, the Viking, and the Witchcrafter. There was also a mentioning of a Gladiator Demon.
Alongside this, Titan Books released the mass market paperback The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Movie Novelization, from the author Tim Lebbon and creators Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. The book also mentioned some monsters and representations of real world fear that aren't in the film such as Cracked-Skinned Lava People (assumed to be mini-avatars of the Ancient Ones), a Dog-Headed Alligator, Exploding Shard Babies, a Fire-Mouthed Woman, a Giant Rabbit, a Man with Steaming Pipes in his Chest, a Minotaur, a Monochrome Woman, a Scorpion Stinger Woman, a Screaming Banshee, a Six-Armed Man, a Three-Headed Child, a Toxic Ghostly Figure, a Vagina-Toothed Woman, and a Woman with Snake Pubic Hairs.
- Originally, the video game Left 4 Dead 2 was supposed to also include a downloadable content where the Cabin and the Facility from this movie were going to be included. However, the project dissolved after the film's original production company, MGM, filed for bankruptcy. Drew Goddard commented on what the downloadable content would have included stating: "The game was gonna be amazing. You were gonna be able to play in both the upstairs Cabin in the Woods world and the downstairs 'facility' world with all the monsters."
- The Cabin in the Woods was announced on June 26, 2013 as the first maze for Universal Orlando Resort's annual Halloween Horror Nights event for 2013.
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