Ink & Pixel: The Cabin in the Woods

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I'm always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fan-base, Ink & Pixel has broadened its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure, and Fantasy genres. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at [email protected] so we can discuss it further.

Many of us have heard the terrible tales of The Wailing Woman, Buried Alive, Attack of the Hook-Man, and the Legend of Jenny Greentree. Okay, so maybe you haven't heard that last one unless you're a fan of the CW's Supernatural, but the fact remains that any one of these stories would be perfectly suited for a spooky story time, gathered around a roaring campfire. And perhaps one of the most recognized scenarios for bloodshed in a wooded area is when a group of young, sex-starved and drug-addled individuals shack up with one another in a remote and decrepit-looking cabin. Now, a smart person would be like, “Hey, whoa! Instead of that creepy-ass cabin, why don't we log onto and see what's up?” But alas, some thrill-seekers cannot be swayed, and are likely to ignore words of caution regarding danger and dismemberment. You'd think they'd have seen FRIDAY THE 13th?

So, why all of this talk about ghost stories, haunted cabins and poor life choices? Well, it all rounds back to this week's film highlight, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS!

Released in North America back in March of 2012, this hilariously horrifying flick was directed by Drew Goddard (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, LOST, MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL). As a man not content to simply remain behind the camera, Goddard also wrote the film in cooperation with his friend and long-time collaborator, Joss Whedon (MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS, FIREFLY, DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-A-LONG BLOG). Believe it or not, the screenplay for the film was written in a matter of just 3 days, and was looked upon as a way of giving Horror fans a reprieve from many of the slasher and “torture porn” flicks that seemed to be saturating the market at the time.

Oh hey, so there are more than likely a few of you who have yet to see this freakishly inventive picture. That being the case, please allow me to give you a small taste of what you're in for. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS stars actors Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams as five teens off for a weekend of debauchery as they shack up in a seemingly harmless and remote cabin in the woods. Here's the thing though: none of them have any idea that they're being watched, and that their vacation spot is actually part of a morally-twisted secret project run by members of an underground facility.

Before long, the coordinators of the project, Gary Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Steve Hadley (Bradley Whitford), manipulate the teens into partaking in a supernatural blood-related ritual that requires them to be picked off one-by-one as a proverbial roll of the dice decides the method of their untimely demise. Furthermore … actually, never mind. I think I've already told you more than enough. Honestly, part of what makes this movie such a great time is the mystery of what's actually going on. With that said, I'll leave it to you to sort the rest of this out when you sit down to enjoy the film.

Shooting for the woodland-based scenes in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS took place within the lush forests of Vancouver, Canada. Having never been to the densely wooded pines of the Great White North, Goddard remained unconvinced of its majesty until viewing the location first-hand. Upon his arrival, there was no doubt in his mind that it was the perfect locale in which to systematically dismember a group of adventuresome teens. On-hand to aid in the film's special effects and makeup design were members of the Venice, California-based AFX Studios. Established and operated by husband and wife team David Leroy and Heather Anderson, AFX Studios has contributed to several of Hollywood's more effects-driven films like PET SEMETARY, SPAWN, WATERWORLD, BATMAN, and THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW – just to name a few.

According to David LeRoy Anderson of AFX Studios, an estimated total of 1,000 people were outfitted with costumes, makeup, and green-screen tech in order to create the film's robust cast of characters. Now just for a moment, imagine what it must have been like to be one of the makeup artists or costume designers on this project. Not only were they tasked with outfitting the core cast of teens as they fought to survive the night, but also re-creating iconic movie monsters such as vampires, zombies, Japanese spirits (Yūrei), cannibalistic hillbillies, a bloodthirsty merman, and much more!

Now, those of you who are saying to yourselves, “Well, those things already exist, so it couldn't have been that hard!” Not true! I'm certain that a few of these creatures fall under the territory of public domain, but I'd like to see you try re-creating a Freddy Krueger-like creature that isn't the man himself. Your audience needs to be able to recognize the imagery without being given a reason to point the finger and say, “Hey! They totally stole that from Wes Craven!” Like I said, it's not an easy thing to do.

Even with the monster population properly sorted, there's still the hurdle of marrying both practical and digital effects together to create one cohesive vision. Take the act of smashing a crowbar through a zombie's skull for example. The actor must first be dressed from head to toe – both in costume as well as makeup – before the application of any digital effects can take place. Next, a thin, neon green rod must be inserted into the side of their face. As the crowbar travels along the rod and toward the actor's skull, a small section of the lever then connects with the applied makeup, creating an illusion of it being embedded deep inside a fatal wound. It's all about timing, filming from the right angle, and working that movie magic like only the pros can!

By the time that THE CABIN IN THE WOODS exited theaters it had earned a worldwide total of $66,486, 080. While this total may appear as paltry to some, it's important to keep in mind that the film was produced using a budget of just $30 million. Unfortunately, a bit of unpleasantness brought the film back into the public eye, when in 2015, an author by the name of Peter Gallagher sued both Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard on the grounds of copyright infringement. The short of it is that Gallagher claimed that the events and characters of the film were “virtually identical” to those in his novel, entitled The Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines.

The accusation surfaced (conveniently) just a couple of weeks before Whedon's smash hit AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was set to be unleashed on the big screen on May 1st. Take this for what you will, but my research into the validity of Gallagher's claim suggests that many people feel the similarities between the two projects are negligible. Consider this: the characters in Gallagher's novel are part of a reality show in which no one dies. Keep that in mind the next time you watch THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, a movie that features … wait for it … ritualistic killings and nightmarish creatures from every corner of the known Horror-verse. To my knowledge, the case remains open to this day, but has gone unrecognized by anyone associated with the accused parties.

So yeah, regardless of all that legal foofaraw, I'm of the opinion that THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a damn masterpiece! Its spooky and satirical approach to a seemingly infinite number of horror-related concepts makes the film a delight to watch with anyone willing to go along for the ride. I recall seeing this bit of genius in the theater, with a group of my like-minded friends, and ceaselessly laughing our asses off from the film's clever beginning all the way to its doomsday conclusion. Time and again I've wondered about which objects I would have examined while exploring the cabin, and what horrors would have emerged due to my curiosity.

If I had my pick, I would love to engage in a battle to the death with an army of animated, porcelain dolls. Just give me a metal baseball bat and a pair of headphones. I would smash their un-nerving faces into tiny ivory-colored shards until my dying breath. Can you tell I've daydreamed about this scenario before? Heh. See you next time, folks!


About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.