It’s been almost 10 years since The Cabin in the Woods hit theaters in the U.S. The critically acclaimed horror comedy drove in $42 million at the U.S. box office and received rave reviews. Chris Hemsworth would soon star in Thor following this film’s success.
Just In Time For Halloween, We Look Back At The Landmark Horror Comedy From Joss Whedon And Drew Goddard
Comically self-aware, the story follows five college friends vacationing at a remote cabin, but one by one, they fall victim to backwoods zombies. We soon discover another factor at play: Two colorful scientists are manipulating the mayhem for the sake of some worldly power…
As Halloween quickly approaches, we look back at this iconic scary movie that shook the horror genre and playfully defied its norms. Read on to learn 10 fun facts that most horror fans don’t know about the 2011 story from Joss Whedon (Avengers) and Drew Goddard. Some of these tidbits are also confirmed through the DVD’s commentary:
1. The Film Is Inspired By Goddard’s Hometown
Classic horror movies are often referenced throughout The Cabin in the Woods. But its biggest influence is perhaps Los Alamos, New Mexico, the government-created town that birthed the atom bomb. It also happens to be where Goddard grew up.
“It inspired all of the design,” Goddard told Gizmodo. “I just handed manuals of what Los Alamos looked like in the 1950s to my production designer. We even studied the costumes. It’s a strange town, it’s a very strange town to grow up in… I can’t escape its influence and I’ll probably be influenced by Los Alamos for the rest of my life.”
2. Some Particularly Scary Monsters Didn’t Make The Final Cut
A full list of the featured monsters includes vampires, clowns, mummies, zombies, mermen, aliens – and even a giant cat. A number of these monsters don’t actually appear in the film, however, and among the fantastical creatures and animals is simply “Kevin.” It’s possible that he’s a reference to either the creepy slasher played by Elijah Wood in Sin City& or the titular character from the novel that was adapted into Lynne Ramsay’s 2011 film We Need To Talk About Kevin.& Both fictitious characters are quietly and sadistically violent in nature.
3. The Beginning Sequence Aims To Confuse Viewers
“Opening the movie with this scene is one of my favorite things that we accomplished,” Whedon said in the DVD commentary about the early sequence where the irreplaceable Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins chat about an office betting pool, among other seemingly innocent topics. As screenwriters, Whedon and Goddard wanted us to think we had entered the wrong movie. What an entrance!
4. Victor Salva Was Initially Envisioned As Director
According to Whedon, he and Goddard didn’t know who was going to direct their story, so they brainstormed possibilities and landed on Victor Salva. Goddard and Whedon have both noted they like the Jeepers Creepers movies.
5. “Death By Merman” Reportedly Tested Highest With Audiences
Whitford: I am never going to see a merman. Ever.
Jenkins: Dude, be thankful. Those things are terrifying. And the cleanup on them is a nightmare.
As Goddard will tell you, it’s all about setups and payoffs in screenwriting. He’ll also tell you that the merman was at the top of test audiences’ reasons for liking the film, even if it’s a setup/payoff that’s only about a minute’s worth of screen time.
“The merman, for a number of reasons, was the most challenging,” said effects designer David Leroy Anderson to EW. “I think we did more renditions of that character than any other character. We kept missing our cut-off deadlines. We just kept struggling to get the final approval.”
6. There Was Almost A Left 4 Dead Story Tie-In
While several characters from the popular video-game are briefly featured in The Cabin in the Woods, elements of the film were then going to be featured in Left 4 Dead 2 – but it was all scrapped due to money issues.
“We actually were going to do a downloadable L4D2 expansion pack, where you’d fight in the Cabin world, but then MGM went bankrupt so the delay squashed it,” said Goddard on Reddit. “But the people at Valve were still cool enough to let us use some of their monsters to fill the cubes in the background (I had a lot of cubes to fill.)”
7. A Classic Horror Franchise’s “Final Girl” Did This Film’s Special Makeup Effects
Heather Langenkamp, known for playing Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street, worked on Cabin in the Woods not as an actor, but as an effects whiz with her husband, through their company AFX Studio. Langenkamp is listed in the credits as Heather L. Anderson.
8. A First Draft Of The Script Was Completed In Just A Few Days
Having worked together previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Whedon and Goddard wrote the screenplay in three days while hidden away in a hotel room. They described their script as an attempt to “revitalize” the slasher film genre.
9. More Than 50 Bodies Pile Up During The Film
A final death count will vary depending on who you ask, but it’s safe to say that well over 50 people drop dead over the course of this 95-minute meta-horror film. But if you want to sound cheeky during any given movie trivia discussion, you could argue that billions of folks actually died in Cabin in the Woods – given its epic, apocalyptic conclusion.
10. The Final Dialogue Exchange Is A Nod To Aliens
Goddard notes the film’s ending scene between the characters Marty and Dana was the best written scene he ever watched. Whedon was the one who wrote the scene and says it’s a version of the “You always were an a**hole, Gorman” scene from James Cameron’s celebrated sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. We probably didn’t even need Whedon to confirm the reference for us; after all, none other than Sigourney Weaver joins Cabin in the Woods. Hint, hint!