The Movie Tourist Visits The Cabin From ‘Cabin in the Woods’ (2012)
“Who would have thought that the fate of the world rests in the hands of a group of white collared workers but so is the situation at the facility lying beneath a very special cabin in the wood. Here The Organisation orchestrates The Ritual to please The Ancient Ones. Tending to the nightmares and monster they house within their compound, while playing puppet master with the yearly chosen … who knew that an office job could be so dangerous.”
Cabin In The Woods might arguably be one of the most original horror films in years and much like Scream before it exactly what the horror genre needed upon its release, which had – mostly on the back of the success of Hostel – devolved into grim torture porn. Still with Joss Whedon and screenwriter Drew Goddard, both coming off failed film projects, they set out to buck the trend, locking themselves away in a hotel room one weekend and proceeding to put together the foundations of a script for this film, one Whedon refers to as being a “loving hate letter” to the horror genre.
Right from the start there is no secret as to what is going on with the film opening on our two puppet masters Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) as they talk about Hadley’s wife baby-proofing their home, even though she isn’t pregnant yet. A scene that was designed with the intention of making the audience think they had walked into the wrong movie before smash cutting to the title card. This conversation also shows just how set into the process the pair are at this point, that they can carry on with mundane water cooler talk despite the fact they are setting a group of people up for sacrifice. Goddard drew inspiration for the employees of The Organisation from growing up in Los Alamos, New Mexico where he would see people like Hadley and Sitterson going to work every day, living mundane lives while at the same time working on weapons of mass destruction.
As a location it is probably best that we view both the titular cabin and the facility beneath it as being the same structure, more so since the two are so interlinked with each other. So let start with the cabin itself, a familiar trope of the horror genre from The Evil Dead to the Friday the 13th series, we as the audience already knowing that nothing good happens when you’re isolated in the woods and here it really plays up to those established fears that we associate with this place even without the back room antics manipulating things. This is never clearer than when we look at the scene of Jules being dared to make out with a mounted wolf head. Perhaps because of how realistic it looks (compared to her own decapitated head) we half expect something to happen when she puts her face next to it which of course it doesn’t.
Once the group however enters the basement, these expectations are further played upon as it’s like a treasure trove of horror trinkets including several that we already have connections to, such as the diary with Latin incarnations (The Evil Dead) or the puzzle orb (Hellraiser), which Kurt can be seen toying, urging the audience, much like the members of the Organisation, as to which monster it’s going to unleash. The sheer amount of fascinating horror memorabilia in this scene though really punches up the sequence, especially when re-watching the film where a lot of fun can be had in linking each monster to an object in the basement.
So while on the surface, the basement might seem like a gratuitous piece of horror fan service, it really serves to highlight one of the key aspects of The Organisation, for they can’t just sacrifice people to please The Ancient Ones but instead only setup the events to meet the requirements. This is in turn a large part of the film’s greater charm as we constantly cut away to Sitterson and Hadley as they tinker with the conditions of the cabin, be it by pumping in pheromones to make them more sexual or spiking the beer and, most creatively, hair dye to make certain character dumber and more fitting with their role. In fact it’s so entertaining watching these two puppet masters that it often feels like the teens are more of the secondary plotline.
Moving into the subterranean realm of The Organisation Facility, located directly below the cabin, it’s surprisingly complex, not to mention a highly-advanced operation that is being run from their command centre. We see departments setup for research, security and wranglers and zoologists to keep the monsters in check, though considering how easy it is for them all be suddenly released on the facility you would think that a better security system would have perhaps been a little higher up on their list of priorities. The design work for this location, being made up of a combination of sets for the elevators and control room, were filmed at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, which really sells the layout and could be easily be mistaken for being the same as any other kind of government facility though we never do discover exactly who the Organisation is linked to let alone how someone comes to find themselves working there. We get the impression that control room security guard Truman (Brian White) comes from a Military background though from how he conducts himself.
The employees of the Organisation all seem to understand the reason for their work and seemingly have made peace with the yearly sacrifice they are orchestrating, mainly by separating themselves from the teens being sacrificed through distractions like the gambling pool for what monster the teens will summon, or perhaps it’s just the fact they are watching them through the monitors which helps make it less real to them. It’s hard to say and like so much of the background of the Organisation something that remains clouded in mystery.
Still this running theme of sacrifice can be found peppered throughout the film from the woodcuts seen during the opening tease to the picture of the slaughtered sheep to hiding a two way mirror hinting at the larger game at play while perhaps offering a clue at the history of the ritual that we are lead to believe has been going on since ancient times. Frustratingly, there is no clarification if the rules for the ritual have changed over the years or if the different branches have different criteria to meet, especially when the Japanese branch seem to be working with a classroom of schoolgirls and an angry spirit, while the American branch create sacrifices relating to key horror victim tropes such as The Fool, The Jock, The Slut etc. The rules for each branch seemingly keep inline with the horror tropes of that location though sadly we only get a glimpse of the failure of the other branches in Stockholm (footage taken from the ending of Dante’s Peak), Berlin, Madrid and Rangoon, one that teases Kaiju fans with its use of footage from Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla.
The final and arguably most fascinating aspect about the facility is its collection of monsters. Thirty-four are shown on the board but between the ones we see in the film, mentioned in the novelization, shown in the visual guide, and making of the actual total of monsters housed at the facility is around 137, which is something of a treat for horror fans, especially with so many of these monsters either paying homage to classic horror creations such as Fornicus: Lord of Bondage and Pain (Pinhead), while others such as The Evil Dead’s Deadites and Angry Molesting Tree are just lifted from their respective franchises. Perhaps it’s the sheer number or just how many there are introduced, housed in their constantly moving boxes that gives them such an air of mystery. At the same time, the combination of classic mythology, including the giant snake and a witch meeting with the more contemporary horrors such as the clown or doll-faced killers, only adds to the chaotic fun.
Maybe it’s the lack of information we get about the Organisation, or perhaps the fact that the film ends in a way seemingly intended to smash any attempts to turn it into a franchise, but either way, the mechanics of the location and how the cabin and facility interlink continue to prove a source of much fascination for the fans who continue to piece together whatever strands of information they can find out, especially when we are still left with so many questions, such as where the monsters come from? What are the rules for the other sites, and just who is funding the Organisation? These are questions it seems for now that we might never get answered but there’s still plenty of fun to be had in analysing the snippets we do get … or perhaps we should learn from Hadley’s desire to see a merman and realise that some hopes are left as just that.