Review: ‘The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion’

I used to be envious of that generation of fans that called themselves “Monster Kids,” the ones that grew up with ready access to Vincent Price movies, Aurora Monster Kits and Famous Monsters of Filmland. Then I realized I had nothing to be jealous about. Growing up in the late ’70s/’80s put me right in the middle of a fertile period for horror fans. Horror movies were a staple of the burgeoning home video market, and while admittedly a lot of it was dreck, there were plenty of quality releases during that time (Halloween, Re-Animator, Evil Dead) that endure as classics today. Bookstores had entire sections devoted exclusively to horror, and we even had our own version of Famous Monsters in Fangoriaits pages filled with articles and photos showcasing the the genius of guys like Dick Smith, Rob Bottin and Tom Savini.

Fango (as we like to call it) gave me and countless others our first taste of behind-the-scenes access to the making of our favorite movies. With the Internet still a futuristic fantasy for most of us, movie news was hard to come by – I usually didn’t know about a new Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street sequel until a trailer played in the theaters (or until Freddy or Jason popped up on the cover of Fango)

My interest in the movie-making magic that goes into my favorite films has never waned, and I’ve truly enjoyed the recent influx of high quality books devoted to both individual movies (like this year’s Prometheus: The Art of the Film) and entire studios (2011’s The Hammer Vault). Titan Books is the publisher behind both of those books, and they’ve scored again with The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion. The Companion was released earlier this year during the movie’s theatrical run, but with today being release day for the its DVD and Blu-ray incarnations, I thought this would be a great time to look at the book.

This book was put together with the full cooperation of creators Joss Whedon (co-writer) and Drew Goddard (co-writer and director). Goddard contributes the book’s foreward, Whedon the afterword, and the two take part in a sprawling, comprehensive interview that covers Cabin from concept to execution. Following the interview is the film’s entire screenplay, liberally illustrated with storyboard and pre-production art, behind-the-scenes photos and more.

All of that is great, but my favorite section of the book comes at the end. It’s called “Creature Feature” and it provides photos and conceptual art of many of the iconic creatures portrayed in Cabin, everything from its redneck slasher family to its werewolf, blobs and ballerinas. Many of these are barely glimpsed in the film, so it’s great to get a closer, more detailed look at them here. The section also has a short interview with David LeRoy Anderson and Heather Langenkamp Anderson, the husband-wife owners and operators of AFX Studios, that I wish had been given more space. (And yes, that is the Heather Langenkamp who played “Nancy” in the first and third Nightmare on Elm Street flicks.)

Overall, this is a great companion piece for the film, something cool to keep handy while watching it at home. Cabin was something of a divisive film for genre fans, but those who enjoyed its fresh approach to some of horror’s most worn-out cliches will find plenty to appreciate here.


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