Film: The Cabin in the Woods
That's one complicated Rubik's Cube.
"On another level it's a serious critique of what we love and what we don't about horror movies. I love being scared. I love that mixture of thrill, of horror, that objectification/identification thing of wanting definitely for the people to be alright but at the same time hoping they'll go somewhere dark and face something awful. The things that I don't like are kids acting like idiots, the devolution of the horror movie into Torture Porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances. Drew and I both felt that the pendulum had swung a little too far in that direction." "We are not who we are."
Five friends go to an isolated cabin in the woods for a weekend vacation. What could possibly go wrong?The Cabin in the Woods
is a 2012 horror movie that sets itself apart from other
horror movies by virtue of its co-writersnote
and by deconstructing both the "cabin in the woods" setting and the horror genre. The film stars Chris Hemsworth
, Fran Kranz, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison
, Jesse Williams, Amy Acker
, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. There's also a book adaptation
. In 2013, Universal Studios
Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights
event featured a haunted attraction based on the film.
Feel free to watch the trailer
, but know that it spoils
the film a bit.
Speaking of spoilers, discussing tropes found within this work will spoil damn near the entire film.
To put this in perspective, the DVD box blurb only describes the plot to the extent of "bad things happening" when the five teenagers go to the cabin, and nothing else
.Seriously. Watch the movie first, then come back. This cannot be repeated enough.
This film provides examples of the following tropes:
- Break the Cutie: Dana. As to be expected.
- Brick Joke:
- Possible when an employee places a bet early on. "I don't think we have one of those." "Zoology says we do." Later on, a unicorn appears.
- The merman. "Oh, come on..."
- Also, each and every single monster on the board (except Kevin and "Sexy Witches") is released and seen during the final act. Yes, including the Angry Molesting Tree.
- The intern splits the pot with Maintenance.
- "You know... I don't even think Curt has a cousin".
- Patience lives up to her name in the end.
- Buffy Speak:
- In the credits, even. "Japanese Floaty Girl."
- The Cassandra: Nobody pays attention to Marty's warnings, because he's always smoking pot. It's actually his pot - coupled with the Chem Department's failure to treat his current stash with intelligence-reducing drugs - that negates the effect of the chemicals the Nebulous Evil Organization is pumping in to alter their behavior, so that he's the only one able to notice that things aren't as they should be.
Marty: I've seen Curt drunk! Jules too!
Dana: Well, maybe it's something else... *Glances at the joint Marty's holding*
- Also Mordecai and his unnoticed warnings - pay careful attention to his phone conversation with the Controllers. He is the Harbinger for them as well, but they laugh him off, even more oblivious to his dire warnings than the kids are!
- Casting Gag: This is the third time Amy Acker has played a scientist in a Joss Whedon production.
- Cell Phones Are Useless: They know beforehand that the cabin will have no cell phone reception. Some see that as a plus, as it will make it easier to relax without distractions.
- Chance Activation: Exaggerated, with the objects in the cellar. As it happens, Dana reads aloud from the diary first...
- Chekhov's Gunman: Patience Buckner, the zombie girl in the white dress with one arm, isn't seen after Curt pushes her out of Marty's way until the Carnage where she is shown exiting an elevator. She then kills the Director, and saves Marty's life.
- Cliché Storm: Intentionally invoked. The ritual pretty much has to be a Cliché Storm for it to work properly.
- Closed Circle: The titular cabin. The controllers try very hard to keep it closed, especially when the tunnel back to civilization fails to conveniently blow up.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Sitterson's response to the Japan iteration. Made even more delightful in that it is targeted at a group of 9-year-olds.
- Collapsing Lair: At the end.
- Cosmic Horror Story: Turns out to be one of these instead of your standard slasher flic. Possibly on a much grander scale since Marty doesn't see stars in the sky.
- Creepy Basement: Two of them in the same small cabin — the Schmuck Bait room and the Black Room. And that's not including what's under the Elaborate Underground Base.
- Creepy Gas Station Attendant: Mordecai. In this case he's not just set dressing, it's important that the sacrifices choose to continue to the Cabin of their own free will, despite the creepy old guy warning them that "gettin' back is your concern." He also provides the same service to the men running the secret program, and just like the college students, they ignore his warning and doom themselves.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Marty.
- They do a good job on the actor of concealing it beneath multiple layers of loose clothing, but there's a few scenes where it's apparent that Marty has a boxer's build.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: All of them.
- The Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Marty was surprisingly on the money about a lot of things even before they started to go to hell. Apparently, his pot has made him mostly immune to the controller's attempts to control him
- Cultural Translation: In-Universe; the Kyoto scenario invokes J-Horror tropes rather than American Horror Tropes. It's stated by the Director that all other locations also use specific local iterations of said horror tropes.
- Curious as a Monkey: The cellar is designed to play off the characters invoking the trope.
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: The controllers' job is to lead them to the cellar (and keep them contained in the staging site). But once the cellar is open, its various artifacts exposed to the group's curiosity, the controllers can't do anything. It's up to the teens themselves to actually pick one. Of course, they all find something that interests them personally, and it was just a matter of who would activate their artifact first.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: That zombie in the camper.
- Deadly Road Trip: Like many other tropes, deconstructed. The evil agency practically manufactures these.
- Deadpan Snarker: Marty, presumably for being stoned for most of the movie. Sitterson and Hadley also have their moments.
- Death by Irony:
- Steve, the control room honcho who gripes a few times about never getting to see mermen kill the co-eds is himself killed by a merman. He even says, "Oh, come on!" when he realizes it.
- The workers in the organization that manipulates the sacrifices and controls the monsters all die horrible deaths when they finally lose control of the monsters. It's ironic in that they manipulated the sacrifice that was the Virgin ("purest") to the point she no longer cared about their lives.
- Death by Sex: Invoked, lampshaded, discussed, and justified, not all in that order.
- Decapitation Presentation: Dana refuses to leave without Jules. Matthew Buckner obligingly tosses her head into Dana's arms.
- Deconstructive Parody
- Deconstructor Fleet: Of horror films.
- Decoy Protagonist: While Dana's status as the Final Girl is enforced by the movie itself, she spends most of the movie either completely oblivious to the events going on around her or having a mental breakdown, while it's Marty who throws the film Off the Rails, succeeds in (sort of) foiling the evil organization, and generally plays a more traditional hero.
- The Determinator: Curt. He goes from sensible, level-headed guy to headstrong savior to grease spot at the bottom of the canyon.
- Developing Doomed Characters: Played with in that it exists primarily to show how the controllers change them to fit their assigned roles, even when others in the group would naturally fit those roles.
- Devil but No God: The Ancient Ones are seemingly the only divine beings of any consequence and they will go on an apocalyptic rampage the moment they fail to receive their full annual tribute.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The "transgressions" which supposedly justify the Targeted Human Sacrifice dying in painful and terrifying ways. One can't help thinking it's more the Ancient Ones envy those who are young, beautiful and carefree.
- Dissonant Serenity: Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain, watches calmly from his cell as a hysterical Dana bangs her bloody hands on the glass.
- Don't Go in the Woods: Invoked with the Harbinger.
- Downer Ending: The world ends. You don't get much further down than that.
- Driven to Suicide: During the "Code Black," we briefly see one of the controllers shooting herself in the head when she realizes the monsters are coming for her.
- It could be inferred that one of the monsters made her do it. Perhaps by ghostly possession.
- Dumb Blonde: Yet another Invoked Trope. Jules is neither naturally blonde nor dumb (she's pre-med), but her hair dye has been treated with a slow-acting toxin that retards cognitive ability.
- Dwindling Party: They started out as a group of five.
- Eating the Eye Candy: On finding a one-way mirror, Holden wrestles over whether to tell Dana, who is undressing on the other side of it. He decides to do the gentlemanly thing and they agree to switch rooms. The first thing she sees on the other side of the mirror is Holden taking off his shirt, which she clearly appreciates. When he starts unbuckling his pants though, she covers the mirror.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Ancient Ones, a bunch of sadistic god-like beings who want the humans being sacrificed to die in fascinating, troperiffic ways to be appeased. Just like a horror-viewer. Fittingly, they're human-shaped.
- Empathic Environment: Invoked when Hadley and Sitterson fine-tune the weather to encourage Curt and Jules to fool around.
- Enforced Trope: This is most of the plot.
- Ensembles: While the five teens are not ethnic or team-like enough for other tropes, they are made to fit five archetypes: The Virgin, The Fool, The Athlete, The Whore and The Scholar.
- Epic Fail: We know early on/from the trailers that there's an invisible grid blocking off the cabin area. Curt does not. Curt jumps his dirtbike right into it, it STOPS him mid-jump and he falls down to the bottom of the canyon.
- Everybody Lives: The Japanese scenario. At least until the failure of the US branch leads to the end of the world...
- Evil Is One Big Happy Family: It's notable that the monsters somehow manage to share the bevy of fresh victims they're presented without so much as a hint of conflict between them, with some even shown to be working together.
- So much so that a gigantic bat thing blatantly ignores a helpless person right in front of it because a Creepy Child has him in its sights.
- To a more literal extent, the Buckners.
- Evil Only Has to Win Once: Zig-zagged hard. There are sites all around the world to provide sacrifices, and every year at least one has to succeed. But if the Ancient Ones aren't placated properly just once, that's all she wrote. So good (in the form of Necessary Evil) only has to win once each year, but they only have to lose completely once to doom the world.
- Faceless Goons: "Internal Security"
- Face-Revealing Turn: The ballerina girl/"Sugarplum Fairy". Though it would be generous to call it a "face".
- Face Death with Dignity: Dana and Marty smoke a joint together as the evil gods start to destroy the world.
- The Family That Slays Together: The Buckners.
- Final Girl: Enforced. Dana (the virgin) is allowed to live as long as she is the last one standing. Even when she and Marty have broken into the controller base, the guards are ordered to kill the virgin last. She's not actually a virgin, but the villains "work with what they've got."
- Lampshaded by Hadley, who admires how it's so effective.
Hadley: It's so strange, I'm...rooting for this girl. She's got so much heart, when you think of all the pain...
- Ultimately averted. Dana and Marty both live to the end - and she is the one closer to death, having just been mauled by a werewolf.
- Marty's comment about how society should crumble, but we're all too afraid to let it, foreshadows the end.
- Lampshaded with Mordecai, "the harbinger," whose job it is to let the co-eds know that they're going into danger. In the process, he calls Jules a whore, referring to her part in the ritual and later mentions to the controllers how Marty came close to ruining the whole setup by "nearly derailing the invocation with his insolence".
- The opening credits have unmistakable illustrations of Human Sacrifice.
- The creepy painting in the cabin shows five people in a wood, presumably the Buckners (note the missing left arm of one of the hunters in the painting), tearing a lamb to pieces as a mysterious figure in the background watches referencing the Ancient Ones watching as hunters savagely kill the sacrifice—lambs often being thought of as the go-to sacrifice.
- The Ancient Ones make the facility tremble when the Fool "dies". The controllers think that they're just getting excited, but they're probably pissed off that the sacrifice is going wrong and the controllers haven't noticed.
- Mordecai the gas station attendant also refers to Jules as "That whore", which is ultimately the role she's forced to play.
- The Fool: Marty is called this by many, but he surprisingly fits into the Tarot archetype beyond just being a hippie stoner; he manages to succeed where others fail, by pure luck but also by being sensible.
- Interestingly, this is foreshadowed itself by his actor. Fran Kranz' most notable role to American audiences is a similar "dorky" character who is fragile and inept in a life or death situation, while Fran himself is 5'10" and over 200 lbs of muscle.◊
- Foreshadowing: In a very unique way. The whole house and the area in general has items that potentially foreshadow almost every monster that could be used, even though most of them never are. There's even a huge wolf's head on the wall... while there's a werewolf in storage.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Multiple, all overlapping. The myriad artifacts the cast finds in the basement, the board at the beginning showing the various and sundry ways the characters could choose the form of the destroyer, then the Monster Mash cameos during "The Carnage".
- Friendship Moment: When creepy station attendant Mordecai snaps angrily at Jules, Marty steps in to snark right back at him.
Mordecai: "You sassin' me, boy?"
Marty: "You were rude to my friend."
- Funny Background Event: Of the horror or dark comedy variety.
- During the celebration, we continually see Dana getting brutally savaged in the background, while the operators are practically oblivious to it.
- When the monsters attack, one of the screens shows the intern frantically holding up signs to the camera, trying to deliver a message to the control room.
- Genre Blindness: Invoked in-universe on the young people. The soldiers that got killed by the monsters just after Dana pushed the Big Red Button could also count.
- Genre Savvy:
- The whole movie can be seen as a subversion of the concept, as the main characters often exhibit Genre Savvy but every time they do so the controllers sabotage them so that the sacrifice can proceed according to plan.
- More conventionally, Marty is the only truly Genre Savvy member of the group. The moment they arrive at the cabin, it's obvious that he feels that the whole place is wrong somehow. His warnings about handling the items in the cellar were spot-on, but no one was listening. because the drugs that were supposed to make sure he wouldn't be were neutralized by his heavy marijuana use.
- Godzilla Threshold: Marty and Dana reach it when they are cornered by the security team. They respond by releasing things almost as bad as the Trope Namer.
- Also the entire reason for the plot. The staffers are willing to engineer the horrible deaths of random teens once a year because the alternative is giant evil gods destroying the world.
- Gorn: And loads of it.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Rather severely averted for the first wave of "The Carnage", then played surprisingly straight for wave two.
- And cunningly used to obscure Marty's failure to die after being Ankle Dragged off by one of the Buckners.
- Zigzagged. The men got the most brutal ways to die shown on screen while the women were mostly seen being menaced by the monsters.
- Guns Are Worthless: The security people in the complex have guns, but it doesn't do them much good. It does fend off the werewolf, but the bullets clearly aren't silver, so it seems more like the werewolf is just inconvenienced enough to look for an easier target instead.
- Haunted House Historian: The Creepy Gas Station Attendant is quite knowledgeable about location and history of the cabin.
- Hearing Voices: Marty hears them; implied to be a Compelling Voice, as despite his warnings people do what the voices say (reading the incantation, and going for a walk alone in the woods).
Whispering Voice: I'm gonna go for a walk...
What are you saying? What do you want? You think I'm a puppet, huh? You think I'm going to do a little puppet dance? I'm the boss of my own brain so give it up! I'm going to go for a walk
- He Cleans Up Nicely: Marty. Well, kind of. His body is a lot better than those shabby clothes suggest.
- Hellevator: The elevator of horror.
- Helping Hands: The zombie arm, which is what remains from Marty's dismemberment of Judah.
- Hero of Another Story: The Japanese girls.
- He Who Fights Monsters: The controllers are just doing what they feel is necessary, but some of them clearly enjoy murdering teenagers a little too much...
- Hillbilly Horrors: "They may be zombified pain-worshipping backwoods idiots ..." "But they're our zombified pain-worshipping backwoods idiots."
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The controllers are set upon and killed by the various horrors they've sealed away to release on the subjects.
- Hollywood Darkness: Lampshaded, used and even weaponized.
- Hollywood Healing: Holden recovers from his bear trap wound rather quickly. Not that it does him much good in the end.
- Hope Spot: Yet another deconstruction, because it's a Hope Spot for the villains.
- Played with when Curt tries to jump the ravine on his motorcycle. The audience should already know exactly what will go wrong, but the characters have no clue. We're even treated to optimistic, uplifting music to drive the point home.
- Hotter and Sexier: The betting board for the betting pool has "witches" and "sexy witches." Apparently there is a difference. Though you never get to see either.
- Human Sacrifice: Necessary to appease the Ancient Ones, though they don't just want deaths, but suffering as well.
- Human Shield: An unintentional one when a mook can't shoot Marty as the Final Girl is in the way, and he can't risk killing her out of order.
- Hypno Trinket: Presumably, the necklace that Jules almost put on before being interrupted by Dana in the cellar. In fact, all the trinkets seem to have hypnotic lure to the people interested in them.
- Idiot Ball: Another Invoked Trope. The controllers are using stupidity-inducing drugs and hypnotic suggestions to guarantee the victims make poor decisions. At one point, Curt insists that everyone stick together, so the controllers pump gas into the cabin that quickly makes him decide it would be better if everyone split up..
- Impaled Palm: Jules introduction to the Buckners. And let the slaughter commence!
- I Need a Freaking Drink: When the scientists start cracking open beers, Lin says that while Hadley and Sitterson are celebrating, she is drinking.
- Immune to Bullets: The killer clown, as evidenced by it appearing ticklish to gunshots as it closes on its victim. Though several other monsters are shown to shrug off bullets, but without as much emphasis.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The unicorn impales a scientist on its horn.
- Improbable Weapon User: Matthew Buckner's weapon of choice is a bear trap attached to a length of chain.
- Subverted. The weapon is intended to be scary and painful, but if the victim fights off the initial shock, it does little real harm on its own.
- Improvised Weapon: Marty's bong. It actually isn't particularly good as a club, but he later uses it to great effect by snagging the chain when Matthew Buckner is swinging his bear trap.
- Industrialized Evil: The controllers have done this so long, they're completely desensitized to it and run a betting pool for fun. What's more, they've basically turned ritualistic murder into a factory assembly job.
- Infant Immortality: We see a classroom of Japanese schoolgirls (all age nine) being terrorized by an angry spirit. Later, they are seen subduing the ghost with a ritual song. We are then told that there were zero fatalities. Later, the end implies that they're doomed anyway as is the rest of humanity.
- Inventional Wisdom: Why does the facility from which the events are controlled have a Big Red Button that releases every single monster in holding into said facility? How baddies who kill using weaponized tropes could have been so Genre Blind enough to not expect that to end predictably is a true riddle for the ages
- Ironic Echo: Three times... by Curt, Dana, and Sitterson.
Curt: "Let's get this party started!"
- Irony: Of the dramatic variety. We are conditioned to think of the people as sacrifices because they are referred to as such. But in actuality, they are the heroes and heroines of their respective stories. The irony, then, is that the world is ended by ancient horrors because this time around Humanity managed to score a win against the forces of darkness. Is anyone aware of another example where winning every battle costs you the war?
- Jerk Jock: Subverted by Curtis, who is pushed into this role via pheromone manipulation. Up to that point, he was shown to be a Lovable Jock, and an intelligent sociology major on a full scholarship who never acts like an alpha male douchebag.
- Jerkass Has a Point: At the beginning of the movie, one of the more jaded controllers teases that it was the chemistry department's fault last time they failed. Though other people arguably fell down on their jobs too, the chem department's screw up in this movie is responsible for Marty being able to retain his wits and catch on to whats going on around him.
- Jump Scare: One happens when the title appears. Lessened by the pop music that occurs afterwards.
- Just A Flesh Wound: Several characters are beaten and stabbed yet manage to run and dart around just fine afterwards.
- Just Desserts: The fate of several Organization members during the rampage, most notably an employee tossed into the maw of the giant cobra and Hadley at the teeth of his merman
- Karmic Death:
- Hadley finally gets to see what a merman looks like. Emphasis on finally.
- The deaths of almost everyone in the control complex are generally more sadistic and far more on-screen graphic than what happens to the five at the cabin.
- Sitterson dies by the hand of one of the people he was trying to kill.
- A few of the cabin mates also die in accordance with their sacrificial roles: Jules the whore was attacked during sex, Curt the jock dies during a not so death defying stunt, and if Marty had died when the audience expected him to he would have been ambushed making jokes. Played with though in that they are being pushed into these roles.
- Its actually one of the requirements of the ritual. The participants must on some level have done something to deserve their deaths, whether its playing with things they're meant to leave alone or having a disagreeable lifestyle.
- Kill All Humans: Once the monsters are released, they clearly don't want to fight each other, only kill normal humans, be the Facility workers or Marty and Dana.
- Killed Offscreen: Subverted. The stoner Marty is wounded and dragged offscreen by one of the Buckners to be killed, and the Controllers assume he died a gruesome death. It turns out that they really should have made sure, because during that time he dispatched the zombie, found an entrance to the Organization's HQ, and went back to save Dana from Pa Buckner. No offscreen inertia here, folks.
- Kill 'em All: No, not just everyone in the movie. EVE-RY-ONE.
- Killer Game Master: Hadley and Sitterson have this trope as their profession.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Werewolves, robots, ghosts, zombies, giant snakes... and a bloodthirsty unicorn. Interesting subversion, perhaps, in that unicorns were traditonally said to attack and kill anyone who was not a virgin.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- When Truman objects to manipulating the teens to have sex in the woods, just so the cameras can capture Jules' nudity, the controllers respond with "Gotta keep the customers satisfied."
- When The Director mentions "Eight minutes to sunrise" when talking about the Gods destroying the Earth, there are eight minutes left until the lights come up in the movie theater.
- When the Doctors are seen about to operate a worker, he screams "Please don't cut", but the camera cuts away.
- Let's Split Up, Gang/Never Split the Party: When the zombies are attacking everyone in the cabin, Curt says they shouldn't split up under any circumstances. The controllers then release a stupidity-inducing gas into the room, causing him to turn around and say they should all split up and go into their own rooms. Marty's response to all of this is a confused "Really?"
- Lovable Jock: Curt and Holden. At first, anyway. The controllers use mind-altering chemicals to turn Curt into a Jerk Jock, and Holden into a Hollywood Nerd to fulfill their roles in the ritual.
- Made of Iron: Dana. The motor home she was in crashes into a lake. Then she gets stabbed, clawed and otherwise beat up by Matthew Buckner, and mauled by a werewolf. She's still together enough to philosophise with Marty at the end.
- She was probably chosen with this in mind since she's supposed to be the Final Girl.
- Monster Mash:
- The whiteboard has a Long List: Werewolf, Alien Beast, Mutants, Wraiths, Zombies, Reptilius, Clowns, Witches, Sexy Witches, Demons, Hell Lord (a.k.a. Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain), Angry Molesting Tree, Giant Snake, Deadites, Mummy, The Bride, The Scarecrow Folk, Snowman, Dragonbat, Vampires, Dismemberment Goblins, Sugarplum Fairy, Merman, The Reanimated, Unicorn, Huron, Sasquatch, Yeti, Wendigo, Dolls, The Doctors, Zombie Redneck Torture Family, Jack O'Lantern, Giant, Twins and Kevin (who, per Word of God, is a sweet, harmless looking guy who will exsanguinate you in seconds... wonder where they got that name...).
- Other monsters seemingly not mentioned on the whiteboard, but spotted throughout the film, include a man-sized tarantula, some manner of giant cephalopod, a medieval torturer, a scorpion-like automaton with buzzsaws for stingers, The Suffocators, a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl, a dead King Kong-esque Kaiju seen on a monitor, a Creepy Child whom a guard tries to escape by dragging himself along the floor, a Boomer, a Hunter, a Witch and a Tank, and three Ku Klux Klan members. And finally, there's The Ancient Ones.
- There are even more monsters not glimpsed in the film or named on the whiteboard, but who show up in behind-the-scenes features on the DVD. These include a Cyclops, the "Man in Transparent Tarp", a spook who peels his own face away, someone with a jellyfish-like head, a giant centipede, a Blob Monster, a Giantess to go with the whiteboard's Giant, vicious dogs, and a killer garden gnome played hilariously by an angry-looking little kid. Oh yes, and a Flying Face which is actually the CGI-disembodied head of makeup effects artist David Leroy Anderson. A comment on one of the "making of" features reveals that there were about a hundred monsters involved, not even counting the hordes of zombies and such (another seventy).
- Mood Whiplash: The movie is exceedingly fond of making hilarious jokes instants before gruesome events, and vice-versa.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain.
- Necessarily Evil: The Controllers and the Director are this, especially the latter (the former have grown desensitized over time). But as long as their program is successful, the Ancient Ones stay dormant, and the world is saved for a little bit longer.
- Negated Moment of Awesome: Curt attempts to jump a canyon in a motorbike in order to get help, but only succeeds in smashing into the forcefield surrounding the cabin.
- Nerd Glasses: Holden is wearing them only when he needs to be smart. See Smart People Know Latin below.
- Nested Mouths / Lamprey Mouth: The Sugarplum Fairy
- Never Trust a Trailer: It's a Deconstructive Parody of horror films. It's advertised as a straight horror film. Ironically, this is one of the few films where it could be argued that this is exactly the mindset the viewer should have before watching the film.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Assuming that Hadley and Sitterson can be called "heroes." Failing to check up on Marty after he was dragged off-camera resulted in the so-called "Fool" sabotaging the base, rescuing Dana and completely trashing the ritual- resulting in the extinction of the entire human race.
- Them not realizing Marty is still alive is also quite odd since at one point a screen is shown displaying all five's vital signs
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Marty and Dana by the end.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: A Zombie Redneck Torture Family is described as an "entirely different species" from the more traditional zombies.
- Noodle Incident: Monitors show the results of failed operations around the world, including a house burning down in Berlin and a giant monster in downtown Buenos Aires. Not much context is provided.
- The US branch has a nigh-spotless record marred only by 1998, when the Chemical Department screwed up. Speculation has arisen that this line is referencing The Faculty.
- No Sell: Marty proves immune to the mind-altering chemicals being pumped into the cabin because of his fresh marijuana stash.
- Not So Above It All: Lin tries to present herself as distanced from the "clowning" behavior of Sitterson and Hadley. But she falls to their level of accepting it soon enough.
- Object Tracking Shot: Near the start we follow an eagle as the "kids" head up the to titular cabin tracking it long enough to see it crash into the force-field surrounding the area.
- Off the Rails: Marty and Dana leave the boundaries of the intended kill-zone when they enter the underground facility.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: "I had to dismember that guy with a trowel."
- Oh, Crap: The SWAT team versus the monsters. Twice.
- One Last Smoke: Marty shares a blunt with Dana as they wait for death.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Marty and Curtis are both stabbed in the back, yet show no effects from their injuries in later scenes.
- Only Sane Man: Marty keeps asking questions about the situation, wondering what normal people are doing with all that creepy stuff in their basement.
- Paint the Town Red: The aftermath of "The Carnage". Oh man yes.
- Panty Shot: Dana's introduction in the movie shows her dancing in her room in a T-shirt and panties. 'The Virgin' indeed.
- Pass the Popcorn: The entire premise, really.
- Pet the Dog: Subverted Trope
- Playing Against Type/Square Peg Round Trope: In-universe. The characters are all forced into neat little brackets. And worse than that, they aren't even forced into the right brackets. For instance, Jules is pre-med, but she's been dosed with a drug that makes her act like a Dumb Blonde.
- The Power of Friendship: In the Japanese scenario.
- Punch Clock Villain: Every character responsible for operations (with exception to The Director) have shades of this. Bonus points for Truman, who makes a point of being aware of this. The fact that they're doing it to save the world each year explains why they're otherwise normal people. Only the Director seems to truly get a kick out of it; the others are said to be letting off steam.
- Purple Prose / Failed Attempt at Drama: Mordecai's phone call. "Cleanse them. Cleanse the world of their ignorance and sin. Bathe them in the crimson of—am I on speakerphone?"
- Put the "Laughter" in "Slaughter": Laughter is heard as the purge starts, presumably from the Monster Clown or Dismemberment Goblins.
- Railroading: Hadley and Sitterson resort to this with pheromone mists and remote-control doors.
- Ramp Jump: The motorbike jump.
- Really Gets Around: Subverted with Jules, who gets pushed into the role of "the whore" by the villains with drugs and pheromones. Apparently dyeing your hair blonde makes you a whore nowadays.
- The Reveal: Several.
- Rise from Your Grave: The undead Buckner family when Dana inadvertently summons them, and the Ancient Ones at the end of the movie when a huge hand smashes through the eponymous cabin and comes down on the camera. Smash to Black.
- Rule of Scary: critiqued by the film.
- Scary Scarecrows
- Schmuck Bait: The cellar isn't just this, it's filled with these.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Played Straight, taken Up to Eleven, then subverted. It's made clear early on that the facility has a stockpile of Nightmare Fuel. Eventually, it is revealed that their stockpile is a well organized collection of every type of horror movie monster one can think of, including a few one would never have expected (e.g. unicorns, mermen, treesnote ). But it's then revealed that even this encyclopedia of terror is just a part of a bigger can that holds even bigger evils.
- Shout-Out: As a parody of horror movies, the movie has loads of these. Also see Expy above.
- The betting board. There were a slew of them in that one scene.
- Angel: The symbol on the floor and the one on the controllers' talismans sure looks like the Circle of the Black Thorn...
- The entire controller's compound is reminiscent of The Initiative from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Which got wiped out when all the demons escaped from their cells.
- Not to mention that the whole facility (as well as what's happening to it) is very Black Mesa-ish.
- The Evil Dead (1981): College friends, cabin in the woods, evil basement, ominous book with ancient chant, and evil molesting trees. "Deadites" also show up on the betting board. The cabin itself looks almost identical to the one from the movie.
- The scene where the basement trapdoor swings open is nearly identical to the scene from the original Evil Dead. Watch them back-to-back and the recreation is strikingly faithful.
- Additionally, the exterior of the titular cabin in the woods looks exactly like the abandoned cabin from the first two Evil Dead films. Word of God says this was intentional. Rumor has it that the filmmakers actually painstakingly built it from scratch because they couldn't track down the original house.
- Hellraiser: The pale guy in black bondage gear, holding a puzzlebox, with sharp metal things embedded in his head.
- Alien: On a monitor during "The Carnage" you can see the foot of a Xenomorph advance towards a cowering woman, the same way the shot happened in the first Alien film.
- Left 4 Dead: A Boomer, a Hunter, a Tank and a Witch are seen among the various monsters, apparently using the in-game models and animations no less.
- The third act is full of shout outs to a bevy of horror films from recent years, among the more generic zombies and Giant Spiders are some doll-masked strangers, a torturer in a mask and leather apron straight from Hostel and the scarecrows that tear apart Truman are actually from the 80's B-movie of the same name, they even get taken out the same way.
- Carrie: The very end, with the hand coming out of the ground, might be a reference to the ending of Carrie.
- The shifting square containment cells might be a shout out to Cube.
- On one of the television monitors, we can see a King Kong expy lying on the ground dead.
- The Ring: The Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl that attacks the Japanese class resembles Sadako.
- The Shining: The twin girls can be seen when all the containment cells are shown. Later a pair of elevator doors open to reveal a flood of blood.
- First Encounter Assault Recon: A formerly heavily armed SWAT member crawls away from a Creepy Child.
- The Strangers: some of the villains in the carnage are a group of silent, well-dressed men and women with white porcelain masks. They are later seen dousing some bound technicians with gasoline and lighting them offscreen.
- Funny Games: The rather jarring title card at the beginning is the same effect (red block letters, sudden sound, quiet conversation leadup) in both films.
- Silent Hill 1: The Vampire Bat bursting through the plate glass window toward the end is pretty much exactly how the first fight in the first Silent Hill game begins.
- Sin City: The unseen but unspeakably horrible Kevin.
- Dana and Marty sitting next to each other for One Last Smoke after accepting their death is straight from Shaun of the Dead.
- The Scarecrows attacking Truman may have been a reference to Doctor Who.
- Jules' dance may strike some viewers as familiar. It's from the original The Wicker Man.
- Truman's name may be a reference to The Truman Show.
- The Doctors are highly reminiscent of the Splicers from BioShock.
- The amplified female voice attempting to reason with Marty and Dana as they enter the laboratory ((even if it's merely a distraction) recalls the final level of Portal
- The first kill in the facility goes to a crawling hand.
- "We are not who we are."
- The original Night of the Living Dead famously involved someone getting dismembered with a trowel, by a zombi.
- Side Bet: The scientists bet on what horror the protagonists will select.
- Sinister Scraping Sound: Matthew Buckner drags his bear-trap-thingy along the wooden dock as he goes to finish off Dana.
- Shirtless Scene: Holden. Dana is impressed.
- Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Sigourney Weaver.
- Slashers Prefer Blondes: Enforced as Jules dyes her hair blonde just before the trip.
- Smart People Know Latin: Played very deliberately. There is literally nothing to establish Holden as the Smart Guy except that glasses suddenly appear on his face in the basement and and he equally suddenly remembers enough high school Latin to decipher the incantation. The only reason he's The Scholar is because the controllers decided he is.
- Sound Track Dissonance: The big office party with cheerful music playing while Dana gets savaged by a zombie in the background.
- Spanner in the Works: After being designated as The Fool, Marty became this.
- Special Person, Normal Name: Obviously Kevin. Also qualifies as Tom the Dark Lord
- Spoof Aesop: In the commentary, it is mentioned that "Pot saves lives."
- Spooky Painting: The hunting scene portrayed in Holden's room is kinda.... visceral.
- The Stars Are Going Out: Marty steps out for a leak and is surprised he can't see any stars, even though they should be miles from any light pollution source, a possible hint the cabin is in an Eldritch Location. Given what happens at the end of the movie, the apocalyptic version of this trope also applies.
- The Stoner: Marty.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: What a classroom of Japanese students are shown contending with.
- Stupidity Inducing Attack: The scientists spiked Jules's hair dye with toxins to gradually decrease her intelligence.
- Subverted Trope: All five of the main protagonists are immediately introduced doing something that completely undoes their perceived "role" in the movie, to the point of requiring the organization to heavily alter and manipulate them in order to have them play it straight. The only one who seems to play his role straight is Marty, who is later revealed to be The Hero.
- Targeted Human Sacrifice: The sacrifices have to fit certain archetypes for the ritual to work.
- Taxidermy Terror: Beautifully played with. The cabin that the college kids go to has a mounted wolf's head on one of the walls, which creeps them out. In the evening, when they're playing "truth or dare", Jules has to make out with it on her dare. She does so, and then nothing happens. It was never alive.
- The Day The Music Lied: In the runup to Curt's jump over the canyon on the motorbike, triumphant music swells... and then he hits the force field.
- Throw Away Guns: After Dana stabs a zombie Sitterson pulls a switch, and a charge of static electricity causes her to drop the knife.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Hadley and Sitterson.
- Too Dumb to Live: The organization has a Big Red Button, located in the lobby of all places, that releases all the monsters at once. There's a lot of debate as to why they would need this.
- Torture Cellar: The Black Room.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Played straight with Marty's apparent "death". The double-bluff structure of the film averts this trope; the trailers spoil that there's science behind the magic, but not the magic behind the science.
- Some characters (be monsters or troops) in the last half are also shown in brief glimpses.
- Trapped in TV Land: Borderline example. It's implied that the monsters that appear in the last third are inspired by movie monsters.
- Truman Show Plot: Albeit the thing staged is not a reality show, but a slasher movie.
- Turned Against Their Masters: "The Carnage"
- Unexplained Recovery: Marty is stabbed in the back and dragged off-screen by a monster. He shows up later, and except for being rather roughed up by the zombie, he is perfectly fine.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Husband bulge".
- A possible reference to Whedon show Dollhouse in which Topher Brink, also played by Fran Kranz, is uncomfortable with the word "erection" and prefers the term "man reaction".
- Vertical Kidnapping: When Holden is in the Black Room, he gets yanked up to the trapdoor by Matthew Buckner's bear-trap thingy.
- Lin is snatched up and hauled out of view by tentacles dangling from the ceiling.
- Virgin Sacrifice: The controllers regret that they can no longer just toss a girl into a volcano as a sacrifice, referencing this trope. They now have to go by stock horror film cliches, which ironically often leaves the virgin Final Girl alive. There's also the problem of getting an actual virgin; they just work with what they can get.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The scientists controlling everything are doing so as part of a ritual that prevents the Bigger Bad "Ancient Ones" from rising and destroying the world.
- White Mask of Doom: Briefly seen in the basement, then again on some of the participants in "The Carnage".
- Would Hurt a Child: Not even kids are exempt from these rituals as one scene shows that the staffers in Japan summon a wraith-like entity to kill a room full of Japanese grades-schoolers. Surprisingly, these nine-year-olds manage to defeat it with The Power of Friendship, with zero fatalities. At least until the world ends.
- Wrestler in All of Us: Curt clotheslines one of the zombies.
- X Meets Y: Every Slasher Movie ever meets The Truman Show meets Half-Life.
- You Bastard: The Ancient Ones are basically horror movie viewers. They watch people die in horrific, troperiffic ways, and, when their world does not go as they wanted it to, want to make it go away. And it's hard to not see the scientists/puppeteers as a metaphor for Hollywood's current horror output, repeating the same formula ad infinitum to appease its target audience's appetite for sex and gore as religiously as any ancient ritual. And you can see the two main scientists as a metaphor for a writer and a director, forced to keep putting out the same dross and lamenting their inability to try anything creative. 'I'll never see a merman,' indeed.
- Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: According to the Director, all the victims have to be young and be punished for various transgressions.