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Review: The Cabin In The Woods Visual Companion

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I know when it comes to Joss Whedon movies, this weekend is all about The Avengers. But if you haven’t seen The Cabin In The Woods yet, it needs to be on your weekend agenda. Call it a double feature. And if you have already seen it, you no doubt have a few questions along with a strong desire to watch it on DVD with a pause button. Until then, let me recommend The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion.

From here on, this post contains spoilers. If you have not yet seen the movie, back away. It’s for your own good–even if you usually like spoilers.

The Cabin In The Woods is an exceptional showcase of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s mutual brilliance. And according to this companion book, they wrote the whole thing in just three days, locked in a Santa Monica hotel room together, taking turns writing scenes. The first part of the book is an interview with the two of them about the creation process for the film. My favorite story involves writing Anna Patience Buckner’s diary. Goddard was working on the basement scene when he got to the diary and thought Whedon would probably like to write it. Just minutes later, according to Goddard, Whedon had the diary completely written. Goddard says:

…six minutes later, he ran upstairs with it, this full page, this beautifully written horror diary of a prairie girl. I was like, ‘How did you write that fast?’ And he’s just like, ‘Some things I was born to do.’ . . . I couldn’t write my own name repeatedly as fast as he wronte that diary.

(Are you still reading this review without having seen the movie? Get out of here! I promise; you want to go in knowing nothing. Go enjoy this humorous song about Firefly instead.)

The book offers sketches and photos of many of the monsters–but not all of them. I would have loved a complete list of everything in each of the cells. (There is, however, a photo of the whiteboard that lists the bets placed and explanations of some of the less-self-explanatory ones, like “Kevin.”) The book ends with ten double-page spreads featuring the Buckners, the werewolf, the merman, the ring-mouth ballerina, the unicorn, the blob, and many background creatures.

There’s also a photo of the functioning (and delightfully steampunk-esque) blood machine. It’s ten feet tall and again, completely functional. Just in case later somebody needs to appease some ancient gods–it’s already built.

You can examine the cabin, in and out, stage and location versions. The painting that covered the mirror? It was specifically made for the movie and takes up half a page of the book. Study a layout of the control room–and better, photos of the basement. Try to match items to monsters! (Whedon specifically said at SXSW that if you look, you’ll find the unicorn’s cause.) If you need to debate the finer points of dialogue, the book also includes the full script.

Are Hadley and Sitterson really Whedon and Goddard? Is Fran Kranz actually one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Is there a TARDIS involved? And just how do you clean up that elevator room between shoots? Grab a copy of The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion and find out.

By day, Ruth Suehle helps upstream open source software communities and tells people how to build fun things with a Raspberry Pi. By night, she fights crimes against craftiness. No, that's not true. She just makes things, which means her husband and kids know to watch out for stray pins and to ask before eating anything made of fondant. (Follow her on Twitter at @suehle.)

3 Comments
Anon

May 8, 2012 5:08 pm Reply

Are you serious about this review you just made?
This movie is so stupid. It’s beyond stupid

rockinlibrarian

June 29, 2013 8:54 am Reply

*averting eyes from most of post*

So, I’m so curious and fascinated by the concept of this movie, but I also hate gory horror movies. I really can’t decide if I want to see it or not. Does anyone have any advice or tidbits of non-spoilery information to help me make up my mind?

    Ruth Suehle

    June 29, 2013 8:59 am Reply

    If it’s simply blood you don’t like, you’re not going to like it. If you enjoy imaginative Whedon–think final few episodes of Angel, Epitaph episodes of Dollhouse, Serenity’s Reavers–it’ll be OK. There’s a lot of levity to break up the horror.

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