Lair of the Geek

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Here at Geeklore we are massive fans of Joss Whedon. He’s responsible for a good many of our very favourite things and we’re all very pleased that pulling director duties on Avengers Assemble might finally get him the mainstream respect he deserves. In recent years superstitious folks might have come to the conclusion that Joss was under the dark influence of some sort of voodoo curse. After seven much loved years Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended in 2003 with the equally good spin-off Angel unfairly cancelled a year later. Since then Whedon’s output has struggled to get past some misfiring starts. Firefly, an excellent fusion of sci-fi and Wild West adventure, was cancelled after only half a series and his brainwashed assassin series Dollhouse fared little better, only limping into a second series after massive compromises and budget cuts. The problem was never that any of these wasn’t good – they were, all, very good, it was that they challenged genre and convention in a way that scared off studio executives in droves. However, you only have to spend a couple of minutes on the internet to see how adored all of Whedon’s shows are by their hordes of loyal fans. Fortunately something rubbed off somewhere because he got the chance to take Firefly to the cinema as Serenity. The result wasn’t a massive blockbuster but it was a success and showed that Whedon more than had the directing chops to put something very special on the big screen. You might be forgiven for thinking that the curse was finally lifted, but no…

 The Cabin in the Woods started life when Whedon and his long-term collaborator Drew Goddard found themselves holed up together in the same hotel. The resulting conversations spawned the idea for a new horror film that would play on conventions and clichés and throw in brand new twists of their own. Oh yes, and there would be monsters, lots and lots of monsters. Goddard had already worked with Whedon on his own shows and Cloverfield as well as being heavily involved with JJ Abrams’ in shows such as Alias and Lost. Just about every fan in the world would love to have been a fly on the wall for those conversations.

The ideas developed into a script co-written by Whedon and Goddard and a greenlight for a movie with Whedon producing and Goddard as director. And then the film got made and everyone lived happily ever after. Except that wasn’t quite how it went because just as the film was ready to go MGM were declared bankrupt and the film got left on the shelf to gather dust. Which could have been the end of the line but Whedon and co aren’t the giving up sort, a new backer was found in Lionsgate and finally, eighteen months late, The Cabin in the Woods has actually reached the screen.

There’s a problem inherent in writing about anything attached to this film which is that more or less whatever you say will act as a spoiler and give too much away. Whedon and Goddard have built careers around challenging genre and convention, playing with the audience’s media knowledge and delivering the unexpected. So, as far as the story is concerned this is all you’re going to get:

It kicks off as a standard horror movie. Five teens set off in a camper van for a weekend away in a remote cabin miles of the beaten track. There are two girls, Jules (the slaggy blonde one) and Dana (the sensible one) and three lads, Curt (the Jock), Holden (the studenty one) and Marty (the whacked out stoner one). They arrive. The cabin is creepy and there’s a really freaky cellar. Bad stuff happens. But nothing is what it seems to be and there are twists and surprises at every turn. If you want to know the rest you need to put your hand in your pocket and buy yourself a cinema ticket.

When it comes to the rather lovely tie in books from Titan the important thing to remember is that they are for people who have already seen and love the film. That’s the important thing. Watch the film then read the books. Everyone got that? OK then…

The Cabin in the Woods – The Official Movie Novelization

By Tim Lebbon
TITAN £6.99      Out now

If you loved the film and can’t wait for the DVD/BluRay/download/whatever you can revisit the story in the old school styley by reading the book. Official novelizations are a mixed bag, some are great while others are lazily written by-the-numbers rehashings of the script. This is quite a good one, though. Tim Lebbon is a good writer with an attractive style. He captures the excitement and tension well and, crucially, keeps the tongue-in-cheek sense of fun of the film intact. The book follows the screenplay more or less exactly without adding any additional scenes or incident but his descriptions are vivid and recreate the visual design of the movie very well. What Lebbon’s writing does add is lots of nice additional character touches which help to make them fell like more three dimensional and believable people. It also has the effect of masking which characters are going to die first because they are all made to seem equally important. While not essential the novelization is good fun and a makes a nice and reasonably priced souvenir. It looks good too with the rather cool Rubik’s Cube cabin artwork on the cover.

If you want a more substantial bit of memorabilia you’d be better off going for:

The Cabin in the Woods – The Official Visual Companion
TITAN £17.99      Out now

This is more expensive but you do get you money’s worth. It’s attractively bound with the same puzzle-cabin artwork as the novel and there are 180 big glossy full colour pages which are a real feast for the eyes. There is a foreword by Drew Goddard, an afterword by Joss Whedon and an extended interview with both which provides a fascinating overview of many aspects of the production. Both men come across as very warm, intelligent and witty and you get the feeling that neither of them can actually quite believe that they were green-lit and given a stack of money to go and have as much fun as they could imagine.

The centre of the book is given over to the entire screenplay. The script is accompanied by dozens of images from the film, behind the scenes stills, production plans and design art. There are brief interviews with many of cast which includes newcomers such as Chris Hemsworth (before he became Kirk’s dad and swung Thor’s hammer) and many familiar faces from Whedon’s TV shows. It’s great to see Whedon’s loyalty to people he has put his faith in, to be honest, and one of the real pluses for his many fans is seeing familiar faces return like old friends.

Probably the best treat is the final section which is a really impressive showcase of the movie’s spectacular design. There are preproduction sketches, make up shots, model work and many images of costumes, props and sets. I would say they pictures are beautiful but that would be horribly inaccurate as most of them are absolutely nightmarish and revolting but they are all fantastic and impressively presented.

Everything about The Cabin in the Woods feels like a labour of love and the great thing about this book is that it seems like it has been put together with the same care and attention. Often these sorts of ‘companion’ books feel a little bit shoddy and ‘thrown together’ to milk a bit of extra cash, but that certainly isn’t true here. The Visual Companion is a lovely thing which fans will treasure for many years to come.

 

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