Review: The Cabin in the Woods (novelization)

by Tim Lebbon

Titan Books, out now

Goddard and Whedon’s seminal horror flick now in book form.

I’ve banged on at some length – much of it on this site – about how much I love Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s landmark horror film, The Cabin in the Woods. The danger with any novelization of something like this is: can it possibly capture the feel of the film whilst still retaining its own voice and giving us something more? Fortunately, when you hire multiple award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Tim Lebbon – who has earned his stripes writing novels such as The Island, Bar None, Echo City and the excellent novelization of 30 Days of Night – you know you’re on to a sure thing from the get-go

Most people will be familiar with the basic story by now: of a group of five friends go off to a cabin retreat for the weekend, but find themselves in the middle of a nightmare, being plagued by terrors straight out of a horror movie. Little do they realise that the whole thing is being manipulated by unseen hands, who have sealed off the area and are controlling everything from the environment to the air that they breathe; pumping in pheromones to make them more horny, and gas to mess with their judgement (ever wondered why people do stupid things like split up in a horror movie? Wonder no longer…).

It’s all part of some kind of ritual even they wouldn’t be able to guess, let alone the reader, providing a unique take on horror that’s both a commentary on what’s lacking in modern offerings and why it scares us in the first place.

Having been a fan of novelizations most of my life – I can remember reading the Alan Dean Foster ones of films like Alien and The Thing back when I wasn’t even old enough to get into the movies – I’ve been collecting them for quite some time. This also means I’ve read the good, the bad and the ugly in my time. Lebbon’s book, based on the screenplay by Goddard and Whedon, is one of the best I’ve ever come across.

Fast-paced, as you’d expect it to be, the story also goes into a lot of the background only hinted at in the movie – such as Dana’s art, her love of rocking out and her fledgling feelings for newcomer Holden. We also get more about the relationships between Sitterson (surely a play on citizen, as an everyman office worker?), Hadley and Lin, who live ostensibly normal lives but are responsible for these bizarre goings on. Why wouldn’t you want to read about what’s going through their minds? Lebbon often gives us a scene from the viewpoint of a character you wouldn’t expect, as well, so there are plenty of surprises even if you have seen the film. And without visual effects to draw on, he’s faced with the unenviable task of describing the action set-pieces, but it’s a challenge he meets with aplomb.

A worthy novelization should add to the movie, being a companion piece but also a rollicking ride in itself. This is all that and much more besides: buy it to tide you over until the DVD/Blu-ray release!

Simply put, an outstanding novelization of an outstanding horror movie! 10/10 

Paul Kane


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