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This movie is the canonical prequel to Attack on Titan
Oh cmon!! Who didn't think that when they saw the trailers for that show. Also it does (to a fair amount) logically follow the thinking/mindset of the titans themselves. Giant, mindless, and seemingly sadistic creatures whom appear to want nothing more than to see humanity suffer.
  • If anyone else wants to add anything else to this please add below this message.

The Evil Dead films are canonish
It seems rather obvious, with the cabin's extreme similarity, and any differences could come with fixing it over time. Going with working with what they have, obviously, Ash is The Virgin.
  • Alternately, Ash's group might have been a bunch of campers who randomly showed up at the Cabin, so the Facility staff sicced one monster after another on them just to get rid of them. Hence, the Angry Molesting Tree and Deadites appearing in the same movie.
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  • Alternately alternately, Ash represents one (or more) of the American branches' failures: He's supposed to be The Athelete (or maybe The Fool), but keeps derailing the scenario by being so badass he outlives everybody.

This could really happen.
These monsters are really real. We do have werewolves and unicorns outside of the Facility. We certainly have unimaginably horrible serial killers. And sometimes they kill people. And sometimes people survive, just like people survive Jason, but hardly anybody believes them, just like people who report encounters with ghosts and Bigfoot. All the movies you've ever seen really happened. But the monsters kill people off the fly, so the Facility exists to manipulate them into happening in the right order when it's time for the true ritual.
  • After all, I can't imagine that after hundreds of years, they managed to get EVERY monster back in its cage every time they released it.

Dana is now a werewolf.
She got torn up pretty bad by the werewolf before it gets shot, but she survived. It probably won't matter now that the Ancient Ones are back, but you never know...
  • building on that Dana says to Marty "No you're right. Humanity . . . It's time to give someone else a chance." this could point to her surviving as a werewolf (the one that attacked her had strong healing powers, recovering from gunshots fairly quickly) and the world may end up having werewolves replacing humans.

The movie takes place in the same universe as Dollhouse.
The Ancient Ones don't destroy the world (directly) but instead share the technology to make dolls. Since Marty was there when it happened he becomes the world's foremost expert in said technology, i.e. Topher.

The organization running the titular cabin is the SCP Foundation.
Think about it. A huge, multinational organization with technology and resources up the wazoo,
ready to do everything and anything it takes to protect the world, and having in their ownership a huge selection of apparently paranormal subjects. Rings any bells?
  • Wait, so Swann's proposal is correct?
    • Or maybe an offshoot organization. The O5's would have an aneurism over how these people are storing Keter-class objects.
    • Most likely what happened is that the Foundation looked up from their morning coffee, saw what was happening at the end, and let out a tired "Not again." and hit the Reset Button.

Dana probably survived the end of the world and joined the Ancient Ones.
I mean, come on, she survived getting the shit thrashed out of her by a huge zombie and she got through a werewolf attack.

Marty is the virgin, not Dana.
That is why the Zombie Redneck Torture Family couldn't kill him while the rest of the gang were still alive.
  • I was expecting that to be the final twist. I mean, the only reference to his sex life is that he didn't get past making out with Jules, and Dana definitely wasn't qualified for the role... I was expecting him to announce his virginity and then apologetically kill Dana, saving the world in the process.
    • But being a virgin doesn't make you the Virgin. You don't even have to be a virgin. Dana points out that she's not a virgin, and the Director tells Dana that "we work with what we have." Dana didn't show any signs of being a Fool other than the Controller-Induced Stupidity everyone else showed. Look at it from a meta perspective. Marty is a stoner. This is "immoral" and by the laws of horror movies, he is supposed to die as "punishment." The rituals apparently are forced to follow the laws of horror movies(or the other way around). Dana doesn't seem to drink(at least, no more than anyone else), doesn't smoke pot, doesn't have sex, doesn't even get naked. When watching a horror movie, all of those things are signs that a character is a Final Girl - known in this movie as the Virgin.
      • I agree with the fact that the movie just doesn't give enough clues to name Marty as the Virgin. But imagine if it did ! That would mean Marty was planning the ending events all along (at least, from the point he realized the Virgin has to stand last). He would have made the choice of not killing Dana, the choice of preserving friendship (cause the Virgin is just a friendly, funny stoner guy, right ?) over saving the world - a choice Dana wasn't sure to make until the werewolf attacked her. He would have lied to Dana, just to see the world end. Marty's nihilism would have been the final motive behind the end of days : a guy who could have saved the day, but who preferred to "give someone else a chance", as he stated at the beginning of the movie, in the van.
      • And from this, imagine this alternate ending : Dana dies (from her wounds) before Marty, thus completing the ritual right before the base crumbles. The giant hand instantly retracts into the ground, the cabin magically reappears, and Marty gets out, slightly dizzy. He gazes at the brightly skies and finally states "Maybe next time". The audience goes "WTF". They watch the movie again and discover that Marty is the Virgin. Minds are blown.

Humanity is now strong enough to take on the Ancient Ones.
The worldwide sacrifice and destruction failures through wit and technology is foreshadowing that humanity might be clever enough to defeat/contain them or at least survive their onslaught without a lot of help from benevolent supernatural forces.
  • Even more likely considering we're told these things used to be free and we bottled them up. In 'ancient times'. See the salvation war for how these kinda fights go.
  • Hang on a minute- when was it said that the Ancient Ones were "bottled up?"
  • Not bottled up in the sense that they are trapped and can't get out; more kept in one place underground and kept happy so they stay there. Their only contact with the outside world is what the organization shows them.
    • They're not "kept" anywhere; the Ancient Ones are pretty clearly the ones in control of their arrangement, and both sides are aware of this.

The Ancient Ones have surfaced before and always been beaten back.
The film is a metaphor for the unchanging nature of the horror genre... and yet, if one just looks back, one realizes that horror has changed IMMENSELY! The organization represents studio executives, and like studio executives, they're blind to the reality that the Ancient Ones(audience) are not immutable.
  • If that doesn't diffuse the Downer Ending, just consider that every monster there ever was exists in this universe. How long before a Godzilla expy is roused by their rampage?

The controllers' plan would have gone off without a hitch if Marty and Holden's roles had been switched.
Holden could have been squeezed into the Fool role somehow, and given Marty's philosophical predilections, he could have fit into the Scholar role with no trouble. But by making Holden the Scholar, Marty got the Fool by default, and the chemicals in his dope negated the controllers' mind-control. And so the controllers sowed the seed of their own destruction.
  • The Chem Department had been planning to introduce its drugs into Marty's system via weed, which Marty was probably already making use of daily, since long before the victims were singled out for sacrifice. Had they planned to use a different drug on him, they'd still have missed a stash and failed to alter his behavior, so he'd still have spotted the anomalies around him. It's Holden who'd have acted differently if their assigned roles had been switched, most likely by getting drunk off his ass rather than showing off his limited Latin skills, and that wouldn't have made much difference in how things played out.

The controller's plan actually worked.
When the controllers died, they became sacrifices themselves. Wendy Lin was the Virgin, and Ronald the Intern was the Fool. The hand was coming out to give a standing ovation for a job well done before sinking back into slumber for another year. I thought of this after reading the Creepy Gas Station Attendant section on the main page.
  • Except Wendy Lin got snatched by the Kraken before Sitterson or Hadley (and maybe Ronald too) buy it. Unless we assume the Kraken takes time out to play with its food, she's dead too soon to be The Virgin in this alternate scenario.
  • Or, an alternate theory along the same lines, the controllers were, collectively, The Fool by virtue of their many screw ups, drinking etc. Their deaths served as the final sacrifice.

Japanese schoolgirls will save the world.
They're going to defeat the Ancient Ones just like they defeated that Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl.
  • Possibly with the help of the Happy Frog.

The movie is a prequel to The Hunger Games.
After the Ancient Ones sate their bloodlust, the ritual gets even more complicated, requiring twenty-three sacrifices.
  • Except that the rituals have to be done yearly, and by the end of the Hunger Games books, The Games have ended for at least twenty years.

The movie is a prequel to Firefly.
This is the real reason we left Earth-That-Was...

Pacific Rim is an unofficial sequel to Cabin in the Woods.
The as yet unreleased Guillermo del Toro monster movie takes place sometime after the events of Cabin in the Woods. The film is reportedly about giant Lovecraftian monsters and kaiju emerging from the Pacific ocean to wreak havoc on humanity. They are the ancient ones from Cabin in the Woods. Del Toro's film will be about how mankind defends itself after the "ancient evil gods" have risen from their eternal slumber.
  • This is my personal canon from now on.

The facility had just finished a major renovation project.
Everything's all clean and shiny, despite this evil having been around for a while. The elevators are brand-new and modern. Not a hint of dust.

The Chem department screw up in '98 is a reference to the film The Faculty
The Faculty's main cast of kids consists of the five sacrifices that the Ancient Ones require (Casey; the Virgin, Stokely; The Scholar, Zeke: the Fool, Delilah: the Whore, Stan: the Athlete), who all don't entirely fit their stereotypes once you scratch the surface much like our heroes in Cabin in the Woods. The film was released in 1998 and the main weapon against our evil beastie: a chemical compound. The Chem department did seem to screw up on that one...

Only a few of the monsters are available to be summoned each year.
The "betting board" doesn't include all the monsters seen in the last act- but it does contain at least one (Kevin) whom nobody bets on. This suggests that only a select number of monsters are available to be summoned. Possibly they're chosen based on the predilections of the sacrifices, or possibly because of what seems to have made the Ancient Ones pleased recently (maybe the Controllers do some audience research each year).
  • Or they leave monsters off the board who were selected in the previous decade or so, to ensure the ritual isn't so much the same as to be boring. Remember that the merman was one of the options, even though it hadn't been picked even once in one of the Controllers' tenure.

The Ancient Gods planned on this happening.
The ritual being screwed up is no fault of the controllers nor the teens. It was the monsters who screwed up killing The Fool. The Gods have tired of this supplication crap they put up with every year and felt it was time for a change, and the only way to get out of this contract was for everyone to screw it up.

Why was each character forced into their position of sacrifice?
  • Jules (Whore) - Before the cabin, she seemed much more prude than Dana. But, she also had her hair dyed blonde. Its pretty common for the whore to be a blonde in horror movies. She's also (arguably) the most attractive female on the trip, another common trait of the Whore.
    • And because she has a boyfriend accompanying her, she's a lot more likely to have sex on the trip: an apparent prerequisite for the role.
  • Curt (Athlete) - There is no mention of his athletic prowess before the trip. In fact, he's shown to be highly intelligent. But, he's dating Jules. One can assume that the roles are predetermined, and Jules was chosen as the Whore. Most horror movies have the Athlete date the Whore.
    • Also he owned a football jacket and was the only one of the men whose clothes drew attention to his physique, since they were controlling their personalities they probably based the decision more on their appearance.
  • Holden (Scholar) - Before the trip, Curt mentions that Holden is the school's top athlete. Holden was brought along as a hookup for Dana. Most horror movies have the Virgin go for the quirky, awkward, but somewhat charming geek. If Dana was chosen to be the Virgin, Holden was chosen to be the scholar by default.
  • Marty (Fool) - It might be more of a Cassandra-esque fool, but out of the five, Marty was the best choice. He is already rebellious and acts in a way that most would interpret as foolish (his introduction shows him smoking a bong in plain sight)
  • Dana (Virgin) - Might just be that the other roles were filled, but she has some of the same traits as movie Virgins. She has been hurt from past relationships (the professor), she is much more hesitant about sexuality (she seems nervous about Holden), and is incredibly nice. All of these are traits shown by the Final Girl in horror movies.

Given how the main Controllers treat their work, it wouldn't be surprising if they simply started their selection from the Whore based on "OK, whose boobs do you want to see this year?". It also plays into the distaste Amy Acker's character has for them.

Mordecai isn't human
After re-watching the movie, a few things stuck out about Mordecai. First, his walk isn't perfect. He's almost limping. In the slaughter picture in the house, there is a well-dressed man with a cane in the background. Second, not only does he threaten the sacrifices, he tells the controllers to do their job right. Maybe Mordecai being the Harbinger isn't a term from the controllers. He's the Harbinger of the Ancient Ones's will. Possibly a lesser ancient god sent as an intermediary.
  • Alternatively he's a half-god-half-human hybrid. He's effectively immortal which is why he looks old, but he's still human as you can tell when he asks if he's is still on speakerphone.

The Facility is run by Wolfram and Hart
Because they have infinite resources at their disposal, no moral compunctions about sacrificing humans, and don't want the Old Ones to ruin their perfectly good global domination they have going on. They even recruited Winifred Burkle's twin sister for the job, erasing all memory of her from her family.

The Ancient Ones are Children/Immature
They're not satisfied by the slaughter at the facility only "The Ritual". Not because of any mystical properties....they want a Bedtime story or else they won't go to sleep.

Marty and Jules were seeing each other behind Curt's back.

The easiest way to defeat the awakened Ancient Ones before they destroy the world...
Have a classroom full of Japanese nine-year-olds sing them into happy little frogs with the Power of Friendship.

The Cabin in the Woods takes place in the same universe that Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel does, but...
... it's a parallel universe(ala the "Wishverse") where The Old Ones such as Illyria were never driven from the Earth and remained in power until the present day.
  • Thus the Wolf, Ram and Hart never rose. Instead, the Old Ones themselves have established an organisation to exploit human evil... for fun, as they were certainly not lacking in power.

Had the ritual not failed and life on Earth went on...
Eventually, the ritual would have adapted to a new form of horror stories: something similar to Slender-vlogs. Boy, the Organization would have had a hell of a time keeping Slender Man in one place...

The ancient ones are Kajiu.
This movie is a prequel to ALL Godzilla/monster films from the original to the one coming in 2014. Only Godzilla and Gamara are not ancient ones, they work for someone else...

It's not coincidence that all the rituals failed at the same time...
After years of being spoon-fed their sacrifices, the ancient ones just got bored. So they decided to end the world. Being the assholes they were, they couldn't just let it happen. They decided to create scenarios where all the rituals failed at the same time, to create suffering amongst the controllers who desperately try to regain control of the situation. It's the only explanation for everything going wrong the way it did all at once. These guys wanted the controllers to fail.
  • Alternately, the monsters in the cubicles got sick and tired of being caged, and conspired to screw up the rituals so they could go free. Judah Buckner deliberately let Marty cut him to pieces, knowing this wouldn't finish him off permanently; indeed, he's still helping Marty and Dana escape when his detached arm grabs the security guard's ankle. Likewise, "something scary" destroyed the gas lines deliberately, the werewolf pounced on Dana to stop her from shooting Marty on purpose, and Patience knew exactly what she was doing when she attacked the Director.
  • Or considering that the glitch in the tunnel's wiring came from "upstairs", maybe it was God himself who decided it was time to let the evil out of the can and get the ball rolling on Armageddon.

The Ancient Ones are classic slasher villains.
They weren't Eldritch Abombinations, but the film Leans to the Fourth Wall enough that classic villains could be seen as gods. When said Gods where unleashed, it was Pinhead as the Big Bad, Freddy Krueger as The Dragon, either Jason or Michael as The Heavy and Leatherface as The Brute. And the "End of the World" was simply the return of the classic killers.
  • Jossed. That gigantic humanoid fist, the only glimpse we get of the Ancient Ones, clearly doesn't belong to any of the classic slasher villains.

The ritual was a partial success.
This theory hinges on the big red button that released all the monster, and why it was there. Basically, the classic horror movie ending was the ideal, but any acceptable ending to the story, that wasn't completely happy (we know from the other failures that happy endings don't work), would at least prevent the gods from actually rising (a "partial success" as I'm going to call it). While most of the people working in the facility didn't know it, that button was a contingency plan, in case the sacrifices found the facility. The most unsatisfying ending imaginable would have been for the SWAT team to just shoot them both dead, or even just shoot Marty. But once the monsters were out, any possible outcome would have been at least somewhat satisfying: 1) Everyone Dies, 2) Just the facility people die and they survive, 3) One of them makes it out, but the facility people die, 4) they all join forces and manage to fight off the monsters, etc. As it is, the world won't be destroyed, but because the ending wasn't perfect there'll probably be some pretty bad hurricanes and earthquakes.

The Director was wrong: killing Marty in the way she suggested wouldn't have completed the ritual.
Because the ritual depends on the victims being killed by what they summoned and/or by accident, having Marty shot by the guards or Dana probably wouldn't have made much difference. It might have worked if Marty had been killed by Patience Buckner, or one of the other monsters that he and Dana released into the facility; there might have even been acceptable methods found in Patience's diary, e.g. temporarily putting the zombies to rest by having the Final Girl become a convert to the Buckner's Religion of Evil and torturing Marty to death. But because the controllers were in such a rush to fix the ritual after their previous blunder, they failed to take all the variables into account.

Still blaming this on the chem department...

  • This is an idea, but I feel like it would be because murdering her friend would have stripped Dana of any remaining 'pure' qualities, negating her role as The Virgin. In fact the fact that she was seriously considering it and would have done so pretty much does so anyway.
  • In the novelization, Sitterman's final thoughts before he'd stabbed are that if he can manage to kill Marty, there's still a chance for humanity: they'll have to do a lot of groveling and appeasement, and the next batch of sacrifices will have to be much more elaborate by way of apology, but he's not completely hopeless yet. Also, the Ancient Ones seemed to accept Curt's death even though he died because of the Controllers' barricade, which wasn't part of the Buckners' scenario.

Kevin is actually shown.
He's the guy with a plastic bag over his head suffocating the other guy. Take off that bag and he looks like a regular guy - we just see him when he's being ugly.
  • He could also be that one scientist taken out by the Bat Out of Hell after the beginning of the Carnage. After all, how did that guy survive past all those monsters?
  • There's an entry on the betting board for "The Suffocators", so the dude with the plastic bag presumably is one of them, not Kevin.
  • The monsters in the Facility's stable don't attack or kill each other. Since Kevin is one of those monsters, the Dragonbat probably wouldn't have eaten him.

Something else kills the Ancient Ones.
My money's on Kamina, alternatively the Ancient Ones are the Anti-Spiral.

The Ancient Ones are Hate Dumb
Being implicitly horror fans, when the "movie" doesn't turn out exactly the way they want it to they just write it off as bad. The earth's destruction by a giant fiery hand at the end? Internet flamewars that they start because of their Hate Dumb.
  • But even if it was fans, fandoms (and critics) are too diverse to fuel the end of the world for the same purpose - their motivation would break down right after the starting gate. Some would even try to spare the actors and staff responsible to give them a personal interview, if that was the case. Unless...

The Ancient Ones represent the corporate producers funding the staff, which is televising these stories for Hell.
Why else would The Ancient Ones care about overseas markets at all? Because they have their own branches in their respective countries - it also helps that they are possibly funding these Controllers by giving them the monsters. They could possibly be giving each Controller station their own criteria, as well - archetypes for every genre they're supposed to direct, and probably the sales pitch as well. Analyzing the main plot, it's also safe to say they also recycle scenery by giving the horror villains ambiguous backgrounds, so as long as the plot is internally consistent, the ritual keeps going. But if the ritual is a complete disaster (i.e. it flops), The Ancient Ones go bankrupt from going over their budget, and those who they were entertaining (thus why The Ancient Ones don't bat an eye at gratuitous sexual content) riot at the company doors...Earth itself. Cue Hell on Earth.
  • Or perhaps...

The Ancient Ones are us. Yes, all of us.
From the very beginning humanity has demonstrated an inclination towards punishing "sinners" (ie: those who do no adhere to the prevailing social/moral/cultural standards of any given society). Storytelling and its evolved forms (poetry, prose, theatre, cinema, video games) allow us to engage in these perverse fantasies without having to compromise our own moral codes, but as we grew more and more desensitized to violence, fiction ceased to titillate like it once did. It was under these circumstances that the sacrifices first began: if we didn't find a way to curb our lust for bloodshed and punishing others, we'd turn to raining judgement on entire societies and devolve into endless war. Better to make examples out of just a few sinners in the hope that it would help others see the error of their ways than to wipe out millions of people, after all.

This entire film is a prequel to The Salvation War series
Obviously not canon, but consider it: this 'containment' of the Ancient Ones has been going on for a long, long time, always under the assumption that the world would end if the Ancient Ones were unleashed on the Earth. But a central tenant of The Salvation War is that humankind would have been wiped off the face of the Earth...but because of how immortals are affected by the passage of time (read: centuries feel like minutes given enough time), they're in absolute horror at how far humanity has advanced over the course of the brief period of two millennia. Imagine holding an unarmed man at gunpoint, take your eyes off him for a second, and turn back to see that he's turned into a Cyderdemon. Humanity is living in fear of the Ancient Ones because of what they could have done, and because of secret their organization was. But unleash them on a twenty-first humanity that's actually united against a common enemy? Nuclear weapons are the least of their problems.
  • Ignoring the fact that the Ancient Ones are completely different from the forces of Hell as presented in the Salvation Wars, there's one more slight problem: the Organization were trained to fight and contain the various monsters aligned with the Ancient Ones, complete with a private army equipped modern weapons... and they lost. Very badly. Plus, the forces of Hell made the mistake of making an ultimatum and thus giving the entire world an enemy they could unite against: the Ancient Ones never actually say anything in any recognizable language- even when Hadley and Sitterson fucked up the sacrifice; it's not certain how the Ancient Ones would fare against nuclear weaponry, but having a giant godlike hand reach out of the earth and flatten the Pentagon entirely unannounced would probably give them a distinct advantage.

The Button is punishment if a country massively fucks up
In the event of a sacrifice going massively tits up somehow, the other nations can vote to force a nation to purge their bunker, so they are absolutely determined to succeed in their job.

One year Hadley couldn't work - he was sick, death in the family, whatever. The Merman was called that year.
Stitterson says "Dude, be thankful. Those things are terrifying. And the cleanup on them's a nightmare." This is how Stitterson knows how bad the cleanup is but Hadley still hasn't seen one.
  • Alternatively, Hadley is just a little bit younger than Stitterson, or at the very least hasn't been working there as long. Stitterson does say "how old do you think I am?" which, to me, implies that Hadley seems to think that Stitterson has some stories about working at this place.

The ritual failed because Marty killed that zombie with a trowel...
...And zombie blood was used instead of human blood. Hence, the tremor when it was pumped into the ritual symbol. The Old Ones were pissed, and there was no way to recover from that.

The Cabin in the Woods takes place in The Laundry Files universe.
And the ending is CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

The Director was accepted as the Fool, thus making the sacrifice successful.
She orders the deaths of five decent young adults on an annual basis without ever considering if there are other ways to appease the Ancient Ones. As she's blindly adhering to their whims, she fulfills the criteria of being the Fool. Marty, who saved Dana even though she moved to kill him, was accepted as the innocent, morally pure Virgin, and thus the Ancient Ones were sated. After all, we never actually see them destroy anything, so it's possible the Ancient Gods decided to spare it... this time.

The plan failed because "upstairs" wanted it to fail, and the Ancient Ones are classic exploitation horror movies of the '50s, '60s and '70s
The movie isn't just a send-up of slasher movies of the late '70s to early '80s. (Its references to those movies are quite affectionate.) It's a parody of specifically torture porn movies of the late '90s to the present. There are three key elements which distinguish between "torture porn" and older horror movies:

  1. Torture porn movies almost always involve a "torturer," a sentient, human sadist in control of the situation and the heroes' suffering, who insists on the heroes being in pain. In older horror, the Big Bad may have been (and often was) completely unthinking and unfeeling, or was often supernatural.
  2. In torture porn, the heroes are usually bound or have no method of escape or self-defense, whereas in older horror movies, they have in almost every scene some chance, no matter how slim nor how badly they cock it up.
  3. Rarely in torture porn does the sadistic torturer face retribution of any kind for his or her actions. In slasher movies, they were killed or at least severely injured at the climax (even if they got better to leave room for a sequel). And in the exploitation flicks, anywhere from the last third to the majority of the runtime was devoted to the hero(es)/ine(s) exacting righteous retribution on their tormentors.

Now let's look at these in order: #1? Check, obviously. The controllers even say it's OK if the Virgin lives, so long as she's been in pain.

For #2, the only brief chance of escape comes from interference from "upstairs." So who's upstairs? References to "downstairs" are literally on a lower level of the complex than the control room - as seen when Marty and Dana have to go down a physical flight of stairs to see the Director and the Ancient One. It's implied that "upstairs" not only wants this to go differently from a standard torture porn movie, but also has the power to make that happen. The physical "upstairs" from the control room is just the cubes of nightmares - who are all trapped where they are - and the cabin itself. Therefore, "upstairs" can only be God... as in the God of Word of God. In other words, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are "upstairs," and they don't like the torture porn tropes.

Which leads nicely into #3. The last third of this movie is, just like the old Gorn exploitation movies, extremely bloody retribution being enacted on the controllers. We know the Ancient Ones are supposedly "worse than" other nightmares. Not only were exploitation flicks gorier and more sadistic, but they had worse acting, worse special effects, worse lighting, worse directing, worse writing - by quite a bit. But on a visceral level, they worked better than the torture porn: They were equally "formulaic," but the formula was simpler (nobody cares about anything except the porn and gorn, so get to it and throw as much in as possible), and the true creativity came from being increasingly original about new and inventive nightmares. Tired of a Zombie Redneck Torture Family? Here, have an Angry Molesting Tree. Oh, and a Killer Unicorn and a Merman, because why not?

In this sense, Hadley's constant desire to see a Merman - in other words, some new and different nightmare he's never seen - fits perfectly with the theme. The formula of the set-up doesn't matter so much as the novelty and increased creativity of the horror. It would also explain why the foreign horror movies fail, too. Foreign tropes are just as played out, and remakes of foreign horror movies show no more creativity than a thousand variations on Saw and Hostel.

If true, this would also explain one of the key headscratchers of the movie: Who put the Big Red Button there and why? "Upstairs" did, because they wanted to destroy both the controllers and the world they maintained. They wanted to destroy the torture porn genre forever and go back to an era when horror movies had a sense of daring and playfulness and... Whedon help us... humor! Even if it comes at the cost of big-name stars and cutting-edge special effects.

The unicorn is a reference to bronies and their often ridiculous penchant for over-the-top grimmification of the source material in fan-created media.

The movie is a stealth prequel to This Is the End.
Unleashing The Ancient One is what caused The End of the World as We Know It situation on earth. It also brought divine intervention from God to bring forth the rapture so that those worthy would be spared of the Ancient One's wrath. The demons that you saw in This Is The End were minions of The Ancient One. Also why nobody from the prequel showed up is because everybody involved in the film pretty much died then the focus went to James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson as the main characters.

The Ancient Ones were thwarted shortly after their return
A team of supernatural heroes fought them off and eliminated the remaining monsters.
Blade: Doctor Strange said he and The Spectre would handle the "ancient ones". We just need to worry about the monsters running around here.
Buffy Summers: This place is locked down. No way out. You guys know what that means, right?
Van Helsing: (smirk) I'm starting to like the future.
  • With The Doctor bringing the band together.

The "human" monsters are from hell, or this universe's equivalent.
Some have noted that a few of the horrors, like the Strangers were just ordinary humans. Well, they were, at some point. Then they died, and went to the afterlife. Since every monster in that place is from the gods, it's not inconceivable that they took a couple serial killers from the afterlife.

Mordecai is a monster from the ancients.
He believes in the sacrifice far more than any of the workers to the point where he's treated like a joke. Not even the Director believes in it so thoroughly (she only cares about keeping the world safe, not about punishing the kids). His old fashioned way of talking/living is also telling of the fact that he has a different mindset from anybody else behind the scenes. This means he must be one of two things; he's either completely insane or he's a non-human monster loaned to the organization from the gods. Now, we can rule out him being legitimately insane, since a legitimately insane man would be way too risky. He could ramble on about the monsters in the cabin and give the whole charade away, or he could fly off the handle and kill the group on the spot. So, since the organization can't trust an insane person on something so calculated, he must be a monster from the ancient gods.

The movie is in the same universe as Exalted
Exalted 1st edition has multiple end scenarios for resolving the setting meta-plot, and one of them leads to the creation of the Classic World of Darkness. Exalted 2nd edition meanwhile implies that Creation is the 'true history' of our world. So by slotting these in with Cabin in the Woods basically the Exalts once and for all re-defeated an escaping army of the Yozi/Neverborn (both of whom fit the description of the Ancient Ones as the 'old gods who used to rule the world' to a T) at the price of creation and magic fading to almost nothing, including Exaltations all going away as well. But the seal required a ritualistic sacrifice every year, with the failure to maintain resulting in the Yozi/Neverborn escaping to rampage (exalts as a group have traditionally been quite willing to perform regular human sacrifice when it suits their needs). Obviously this is what's happening at the end of the movie, after all that's only the hand of one Ancient One we see and plenty of Second and Third Circle Demons are quite humanoid and quite large when they feel like it.

Building on this, when the Ancient Ones escape The Magic Comes Back and so to do the exalts.

Buffy will fix it.
That's it. Some things you just need to believe about life, you know?

The entire thing was a Batman Gambit by none other than Count Dracula himself
The Mummy and werewolf in the facility? Imhotep and Lawrence Talbot, Dracula's inside men (Lawrence had been convinced to help by reminding him all the innocent people that had been sacrificed). Marty's decision to doom mankind? A post-hypnotic command left with Dracula's Hypnotic Eyes. The whole thing was part of his plan to lure the old gods out into the open, where the classic monsters were waiting for them, to take back the horror genre.

The Ancient Ones didn't destroy the universe, they reset it.
If they're meant to represent horror fans, they wouldn't destroy the entire genre after one failure, they would reboot the franchise or wait around until it's done right. Meaning they either reset the universe, or they leave this one behind altogether and leave us to our fates, while they search for a more entertaining alternate world.

Of course this does mean that this reality is now at the mercy of untold horrors that are no longer controlled...

Earth is completely and totally fine
There's two parts to this:
  • 1. The Director says that it will be eight minutes until the sun rises, but less than five minutes in the movie pass before the ancient one starts to rise. That means that, when the arm punches through the seal, instantly killing Dana and Marty, it's technically still night.
  • 2. Marty and Dana could both be called 'The Fool' and 'The Virgin'. Marty's the only one at the cabin that's not interested in having sex, and Dana's drugged to make her act as foolishly as everyone else there.
So, no matter the order they died, it will mean that the fool died before the virgin, before sunrise. So, the ritual's a success, and the Ancient One goes back to sleep.
  • 3.) We never actually see the Ancient Ones destroy anything - the Earth simply begins to shake. It could have just as easily been the Ancient Ones chowing down on human blood and body parts before settling down again.

The Organization use the recordings of their sacrifices as snuff films, and this led to their downfall
During the scene when Curt and Jules have sex, Sitterson mentions that "they have to keep the customers happy". Obviously the ones the ritual is supposed to please is the Ancient Ones, but it wouldn't be too out there that the Organization would use the deaths for additional profit by releasing the recordings as a snuff film. Unfortunately, this led to people being Genre Savvy about horror films, thus leading to the many ritual failures that released the Ancient Ones.

Each college kid represents a different movie genre or genre within horror

Kevin was once a part of the sacrifice
  • But before the Organization could get started Kevin killed his friends and the Organization decided to make him one of the monsters because the unexpected twist entertained The Ancient Ones.
    • Except there was only one prior screw-up on the U.S. facility's record, and it was the Chem Department's fault. If they'd unwittingly included a psychopathic killer on the roster of Sacrifices, that would've been Psychology's fault instead. And if Kevin had killed his friends, then he'd have outlived the Virgin, which he can't be because that role is expected to be A) female and B) innocent.
      • It still could have been a Chem problem if they accidentally treated whatever they used to brainwash him with some kind of Psycho Serum, turning him into a monster.

The button was part of the plan
  • Marty just screwed it up by being somewhat immune to "Trope Toxin" if for whatever reason the sacrifices left the cabin above a Big Red Button would be too irresistible not to push.

The ritual was always going to fail
  • The Ancient Ones knew Humans Are Warriors so devised a way to test the waters with lesser monsters once the rituals went Off the Rails they decided to make their real move.

We are the Ancient Ones
The people in the movie were part of a tiny civilization that has been long forgotten.

Dana is a Slayer
That would explain how she is able to survive the camper crash, being severely beaten by a zombie, and mauled by a werewolf without any obvious injuries. If she survives the ending, she is probably also a werewolf.

Sitterson and Mordecai cut a deal with Maintenance to rig the betting pool.
There was no actual need for Mordecai to specify that the cabin was "the old Buckner place" during his Harbinger performance, yet he names it as such as if to prime the sacrifices' curiosity about its history. The Buckners' picture is also sitting upstairs on the cabin, making them the only ones other than (possibly) the werewolf to be Foreshadowed before the sacrifices are lured downstairs. And the subliminal voices come on very quickly, urging Dana and the rest to abandon the other items and read from the diary. If Maintenance are the ones who keep things in order "upstairs" as well as inside the facility, they had the chance to move that photo to a prominent location when they prepped the cabin, after which Mordecai dropped an additional hint when the five students showed up. Sitterson reinforced Dana's hint-nudged curiosity about the family in question, the instant he could trigger the voices without Hadley (who'd bet on the merman instead) seeing him do it. Sitterson only put money down on the Hell Lord to divert potential suspicion: both the senior Controller and the Harbinger got a share of Maintenance's winnings under-the-table. Ronald the Intern got some too, but he just got lucky.

The movie is canon with Devilman.
In fact, the movie takes place in one of the many Cosmic Retcons Devilman has been through. The Ancient Ones is really God, he had the monstrosities unleashed just to screw with people and "punish" Satan again.

Kevin the Intern was Obfuscating Stupidity.
It seems weird for a film like this to have a random comic relief character who didn't have any impact on the plot. maybe he already figured out the ritual was going to fail and was acting like the fool so he could eventually get him self killed to appease the ancient ones but it he somehow survived until the end making it All for Nothing.
  • Kevin's part was for the other workers in the facility to provide exposition. Alternatively Kevin is us, the audience. He's learning about these operations at the same time we are, but unlike the sacrifices, he has the luxury of watching from the safety of the facility (or that was the plan, anyway) and pondering the ethics of what the Facility is doing, same as when we argue about whether the employees of the facility are the bad guys or not.

The ritual was doomed to failure from the beginning... and not just on account of Marty
They messed up on too many details for it to work: they picked the wrong girls for the Whore and the Virgin, Marty's coffee mug bong not being checked, the other two guys didn't really fit their roles either. The whole thing was going to go tits up no matter what.

The button to release all the killers isn't a case of the organization holding the Idiot Ball...
Rather, it was there as a last resort option if all rituals failed. Basically, the idea was that if the Ancient Ones began to awaken, someone would push the button and unleash all the monsters, demons and other horrors on the Ancient Ones. While not a likely success, it would be hoped that a Zerg Rush of zombies, ghosts, kaiju, mermen and other such things might be able to drive the Ancient Ones back into their dormancy-or at least buy the organization time to devise an alternative solution. Of course, given that in this situation its triggering led to the ritual failure, it wasn't the best idea ever, but at least this would explain why a Genre Savvy organization like the one depicted would have a button that releases all monsters.
  • Weren't all the monsters were provided by the Ancient Ones?

The Ancient Ones aren't really an active existential threat to humanity.
Even with Word of God and the script, we know little of the Ancient Ones. Even with commentary that the sacrifices might have indeed "saved" humanity, we don't know if that means saving it from extermination, from being turned into one giant Hollywood where everyone who's human has to act in the AO's own movies, or just being subjugated and have to follow the AO's rules more openly. Considering that the facility's workers are Unreliable Narrators, we do not know what the AO's do intend for the world in light of humanity's current position. It's possible enough that considering the AO's are one big metaphor for the audience of horror films that once they leave their holding cells they'd all go off to start their own "self-made" horror films using humans who interest them. Obviously it'd be gory and scary, but humanity would still live.

The Facility's people actually protected Marty just prior to the events shown on camera.
Marty's first words in the film are his comment that people in their town drive in a counter-intuitive manner. This isn't just a gag about how Marty's stoned condition left him a confused, possibly dangerous driver. Rather, it's a gag about how, because he was a confused, possibly dangerous stoned driver, the Facility's watchers - teammates of the guy briefly seen on Dana's roof - had no choice but to subtly intercede to prevent their designated Fool from getting into trouble: after all, if he wound up hospitalized from a crash or arrested for driving around with a giant smoking bong in his lap, the ritual would be missing its Fool and would fail by default. The monitors got in their cars and formed a loose protective "box" around Marty's vehicle, shielding him from other drivers and the eyes of the police. Marty, being Marty, noticed that the nearby cars were driving a bit oddly, but he didn't know why.

The Director was a former surviving virgin.
What happens to the Virgin if she survives afterwards? She may have been too traumatized to go back to the real world and continue her life. Instead the Facility brainwashed her and offered her a job. The Director may have been partly responsible for the shift in horror movies during the 1970s, because that's when the Director took the job. She used her firsthand experience as a survivor to create more up-to-date (at the time) and personally effective villains and scenarios. The Director also expressed sympathy to Dana and Marty over what is happening to them but the Facility has to do it for the greater good (though she says she can't imagine it because the brainwashing has removed much of her memory of how it felt to be a sacrifice — which was likely a mercy that the Facility had performed for her.)

Is the Buckner Cabin the only place the American division of the Organization holds the ritual?
This is going off the idea that each of the rituals are presented like "horror movies" to the Ancient Ones (especially since in subtext they represent the viewing public). The U.S. controllers pull the same exact premise gathering high school or college-age young adults and fitting them into their "roles" with the Whore dying first and the Virgin (maybe) last and all that, but not all horror movies take place at an isolated cabin in the wilderness. The "Incident of '98" is said to be a big nod to The Faculty which mostly took place at a high school. What if they also have set-ups at say a suburban neighborhood (where a lot of Slasher Movies occur), a "Haunted House", an Abandoned Area, a run-down Hell Hotel, a Mad Scientist Laboratory, maybe a Creepy Cemetery, etc and it changes the venue every year? It's still the same ritual, but, at least there's some variety.

The movie an allegory not just for horror, but more specifically, badly written horror.
The organization has to resort to mind-altering drugs in order to get the characters to not only better fit into their pre-assigned roles, but also to do just straight-up stupid things no rational human being would do in a survival situation - not unlike how a bad writer forces their characters to do illogical and irrational things in order to railroad the plot towards their desired outcome. No wonder the Ancient Ones got pissed - they know a bad movie when they see one.

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