By: Heather Seebach
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended ONLY for folks who have already seen Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods. There will be EXPLICIT SPOILERS throughout. For my spoiler-free review, go here.
The screenplay for Cabin in the Woods, penned by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, is clever, complex, and full of inside jokes and references. It is definitely the kind of film that demands multiple viewings, especially for horror fans. I have seen the film twice already and still wish I had more sets of eyes so I could catch everything. The following is a run-down of some interesting things I noticed, be they references, jokes, or just intriguing hints. Some of these will be obvious, but worthy of discussion. Still, I hope this illuminates a few things you might have missed, and please use the comment field below to share what else you noticed! No one person can see everything, so let us pool our collective nerd powers and discuss all the fun Easter eggs hiding in this film!
Before the Cabin:
- The first 15 minutes or so of the film may seem pointless at first, but upon second viewing, you see how every line of dialogue is relevant to the big picture. In Dana’s room, we see how the protagonists really are before they are chemically and environmentally manipulated. Curt discusses a sociology book with Dana – he is not the dumb jock he soon becomes. Likewise, Holden goes from the star football player who catches the pigskin in the street to an egghead at the cabin. We also learn that Dana is in fact not a virgin, as she discusses sleeping with her professor. This is all subtle set-up for the transformation these characters undergo into generic horror archetypes.
- Perhaps the first horror reference of the film is The Harbinger, the creepy old gas station attendant. As Richard Jenkins so beautifully states later in the film, this is a guy who practically wears a sign around his neck that says “You are going to die” but the protagonists choose to ignore him. I'm sure nobody reading this "missed" this reference, but I just wanted to point it out because I love how it later ties into the notion of free will - and that speaker phone scene was hilarious, wasn't it?
- The next blatant horror movie reference is the cabin itself, which more than a little resembles the Deadite-infested cabin from The Evil Dead. Inside, it also has the obligatory dead animal head and cellar door.
- Though it is never explicitly stated, I suspect the one-way mirror between Dana and Holden's rooms is an old-school surveillance tool, since this ritual of sating the Gods has obviously been going on since the beginning of humankind. Presumably, the Buckner's (or some resident before them) installed the mirror as a means to observe the victims, just as the two scientists are watching the protagonists with cameras. It also helps that one of those rooms leads to the "Black Room" where people were clearly tortured and killed, most likely for the entertainment of the Gods (this was also hinted at in Patience's diary).
- Jules' make-out session with the wolf ("moose") and her fireplace dancing are visual evidence of her gradual transformation into a "celebutard" as Marty so gracefully put it. The chemicals in her hairdye are decreasing her IQ and increasing her libido, creating the stereotypical dumb, slutty blonde.
- Once the characters get down into the cellar, they are “mesmerized” by various artifacts. This is so hilarious and typical of horror movie characters. For no good reason, they are always drawn to put on a necklace, play some old film, or read ancient scripture. Of course, Cabin puts a twist on that by revealing these characters will choose their own death in doing so. In case you did not pick up on it, the puzzle sphere Curt plays with is a reference to Hellraiser. And the reading of the diary and its Latin is yet another homage to The Evil Dead, where the evil is awoken by the reading of Necronomicon passages.
The Evil Awakens:
- When the Buckners arise, that shot approaching the graves is very reminiscent of shots in Evil Dead.
- The scientists' dry-erase board includes many monsters, among them being two more Evil Dead references - "deadites" and "angry molesting tree." There is also a monster named "Kevin", who, according to the film's stars, is simply a regular dude in a button-up shirt and tie. I love the vague nature of that - who is this Kevin and what is he capable of?! Here is a screen-cap of some more nightmares:
- Once in the cellar, Holden puts on glasses and continues to wear them throughout the film and later he inexplicably remembers how to speak Latin. He is essentially the “scholar” now. Also, as you may recall, Curt, who has become a sex-crazed alpha male, refers to Holden as an "egghead." Similarly, when making out with Holden, Dana inexplicably says she has never had sex, and then wonders why she said that. The characters are becoming genre archetypes against their will and do not even realize it.
- In the scenes with the scientists, we frequently see monitors showing rituals from around the world, including Japan where a Ju-On type scenario is playing out. King Kong can be seen in one scene, and in the Stockholm footage, we see a burned-down base with a helicopter flying overhead - an obvious reference The Thing.
The Evil Attacks:
- When Marty is thought to have been killed, the scientists release his blood and the facility shakes as if the Gods are angry. This only happens this time and at the end which seems to suggest the Gods knew Marty wasn’t actually dead (they saw what the scientists could not see on camera).
- When Dana stabs the zombie in the Black Room, it seems to bleed black. An Evil Dead 2 reference perhaps? I suspect the zombie arm in the elevator later is also an ED2 reference.
- In the scene where the scientists are celebrating their victory, there is a moment I love that I want to point out - Dana violently vomiting blood in the background as the scientists all chat and drink. I found this darkly hilarious and had to wonder "What is that zombie DOING to her back there?!"
- Once Dana and Marty are inside the elevator, there is a very obvious reference to Hellraiser with the buzzsaw dude. When the camera pans back, we see a LOT of monsters. This is where I need your eagle eyes, readers! Comment below and tell me who you spotted! One creature I did notice (and was very giddy about) was a Boomer from Left 4 Dead. If you want to look for it next time you watch the film, it is to the right of Dana and Marty when the camera pulls back.
- In the climax, the "Army of Nightmares" included numerous references: IT (clown); The Strangers; The Shining (blood elevators); The Evil Dead (evil tree); Jurassic Park, and probably many more. Who else did you notice? Please share in the comments below!