The Cabin in the Woods
|The Cabin in the Woods|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Drew Goddard|
|Produced by||Joss Whedon|
|Music by||David Julyan|
|Edited by||Lisa Lassek|
|Box office||$66.5 million|
The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 American horror comedy 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, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. The plot follows a group of college students who retreat to a remote forest cabin where they fall victim to backwoods zombies, and two scientists who manipulate the ongoing events from an underground facility. 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.
Filming took place in Vancouver, British Columbia from March to May 2009 on an estimated budget of $30 million. The film was originally slated for release on February 5, 2010 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists, but was indefinitely shelved due to ongoing financial difficulties. In 2011, Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights. The film 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, grossing over $66 million worldwide.
In the underground Facility, senior technicians Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford) discuss plans for a mysterious ritual. A similar operation undertaken by their counterparts in Stockholm has just ended in failure.
American college students Dana Polk (Kristen Connolly), Holden McCrea (Jesse Williams), Marty Mikalski (Fran Kranz), Jules Louden (Anna Hutchison), and Curt Vaughan (Chris Hemsworth) are spending their weekend at a seemingly deserted cabin in the forest. From the facility, where they possess some technological control over the cabin, Sitterson and Hadley manipulate them by intoxicating the teenagers with mind-altering drugs that hinder rational thinking and increase libido. They take bets from the different facility departments on what kind of monster will attack the teenagers and discuss the failures of similar rituals in other nations.
In the cabin's cellar, the group finds many bizarre objects, including the diary of Patience Buckner, a cabin resident abused by her sadistic family. Dana recites incantations from the journal, inadvertently summoning the zombified Buckner family. By releasing pheromones, Hadley successfully induces Curt and Jules to have sex. Attacked by marauding Buckners, Jules is decapitated, but Curt escapes, alerting everyone else. Marty, a frequent marijuana smoker, discovers concealed surveillance equipment before being dragged off by a Buckner. Later, the Facility workers learn that the ritual in Japan has also ended in failure, ending Japan's streak of success, and confirming that the American ritual is humanity's last hope.
Curt, Holden, and Dana attempt to escape in their RV, but Sitterson triggers a tunnel collapse to hinder their flight. Curt jumps a ravine on his motorcycle, only to crash into a camouflaged force shield, killing him. Holden and Dana retreat to the RV to re-evaluate, but one of the Buckners is waiting within and stabs Holden as they are driving away, resulting in the RV veering into a lake. Dana swims ashore and is beset in turn. As she is attacked, the staff celebrate her impending death and the successful completion of their ritual.
The celebration is interrupted by a phone call from "downstairs" pointing out that Marty has survived. He rescues Dana and shows her to a hidden elevator. They take the elevator into the Facility, where a menagerie of monsters are imprisoned. Dana correlates them with the knickknacks in the cabin's basement and realizes that those items dictate which monster will be unleashed. Cornered by the Facility's security troops, she and Marty release the multitude of monsters, including zombies, a werewolf, a giant snake, wraiths, a unicorn, and a merman, among others, who wreak havoc and slaughter the staff.
Fleeing further, Dana and Marty discover a temple where they are confronted by the project's Director. She explains that, every year, worldwide rituals are held to appease the Ancient Ones; malevolent beings living beneath the surface of the earth, one of them under their own Facility. The Ancient Ones are kept in perpetual slumber through an annual sacrifice, shown to be unique to the tropes of each region. The American slasher film ritual requires the killing 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, so long as the Whore dies first and the Virgin survives or dies last. The Director urges Dana to shoot Marty, completing the ritual and saving humanity. But the standoff is interrupted by a Werewolf that attacks Dana. Patience Buckner suddenly appears and kills the Director. Deciding that humanity is not worth saving, Dana and Marty share a joint as an Ancient One stirs, its giant hand emerging from beneath the temple floor, destroying the cabin and the Facility and killing them.
- 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
- Bradley Whitford as Steve Hadley
- Brian J. White as Daniel Truman
- Amy Acker as Wendy Lin
- Sigourney Weaver as The Director
- Tim de Zarn as Mordecai
- Jodelle Ferland as Anna 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
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 Lionsgate 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!" In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, Goddard focused on the advantages of the delayed release, saying, "Lionsgate came along and they were the best possible home for that movie. Had the bankruptcy not happened, we wouldn't have been in the right fit with the right people. Yes, it took two years longer than we wish it would've taken, but Lionsgate didn't make us change a frame and believed in what we were trying to do. If I had complained too much when MGM went bankrupt, we could have hurt ourselves. We just held firm that we believed in the movie and that we would find the right home and time, and it did. It's hard, but you have to be very patient in Hollywood."
The Cabin in the Woods was released on DVD & Blu-ray in North America on September 18, 2012. Both the DVD and Blu-ray feature an audio commentary by Goddard and Whedon, several featurettes, a documentary about the making of the film, and a Q&A session at the 2012 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.
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 review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 92%, based on 253 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "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 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, 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?". 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 of The A. V. Club 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."
|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 13, 2015, author Peter Gallagher filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in California federal court against the makers of the film. Gallagher claimed that due to the similarities between the film and his 2006 novel The Little White Trip: A Night In the Pines, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard had used his work without permission. The lawsuit demanded $10 million in damages. Whedon and Goddard were named as defendants, along with the production company Mutant Enemy Productions and distributor Lionsgate. Five months later, the case was dismissed.
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, writing, “While the two works share a common premise of students travelling to remote locations and subsequently being murdered, real or otherwise, that premise is unprotectable. The concept of young people venturing off to such locations and being murdered by some evil force is common in horror films.” The judge added that “The works may both have a core theme of horror, but Cabin’s core of horror is spliced with heavy amounts of comedy and parody. Indeed, the way each work plays out is drastically different than the other, as is the way they develop their core themes and how they provide commentary.” Wright also determined that the “plot of ‘Cabin’ is rather comical,” Gallagher’s book “starts off on a very serious note.” 
On April 17, 2012, Titan Books released the Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion. It features interviews, behind-the-scenes photos, and concept art of unused creatures.
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