If you’ve never seen The Cabin in the Woods, you might want to skip this feature until you’ve changed that.
…but you probably won’t, so here’s the quick-and-dirty scoop. In the film, a group of teens are selected to be part of an ancient and super important ritual. They’re essentially sacrifices meant to keep the enormous gods who slumber beneath us in check.
The teens are “urged” into a cabin (in the woods, duh), where a series of doodads and artifacts will allow them to unwittingly summon one of dozens if not hundreds of monsters, which will then be sent from a holding tank to kill and probably eat them. All the while, the organization behind the ritual, hidden underground, watches the action and “subtly” pushes things in the right direction. It’s sick, but they have to do it: Killing a couple of teenagers sure beats having the entire planet destroyed by angry gods.
The brunt of the film pits these teens against some pretty boring zombie rednecks, but they eventually figure out what’s going on, make their way to the base, and in a last ditch effort to save their lives, release EVERY SINGLE MONSTER from the holding tanks – or “cubes,” as they’re more commonly called.
So begins what’s already one of my all-time favorite movie scenes: THE PURGE, where oodles of monsters and murderers maim and destroy everyone in their collective path.
The Cabin in the Woods was not a universally loved movie, but man, when you get a final act like that, I think it’s time to toss objective criticism aside. It was pure, chaotic joy for any horror movie fan. Like our wildest dreams come true. Giant snakes, fake Cenobites and even a goddamned unicorn, killing everything in sight and all getting their little “moments.”
You could watch the film a thousand times and still not catch every monster. Many only appear for a few seconds, on grainy surveillance monitors. Still others are never actually seen during the purge, being limited to that iconic shot of all of the holding cubes. The first time I saw The Cabin in the Woods, I knew this article was forthcoming. I just had to get the DVD to go through it frame-by-frame, catching as many monsters as possible.
And I was in luck, because the DVD also comes with special features that afford us much closer looks than we got in the film.
So, here it is. My thirty favorite monsters from The Cabin in the Woods, which unfortunately necessitates several preshow notes:
1) Don’t pay too close attention to the order of the monsters. Aside from #1, they’re pretty random. I don’t actually think that the Sugarplum Fairy was cooler than the Dismemberment Goblins, for example.
2) Some of the included images look bad. That’s unavoidable. In some cases, I had to zoom into the frame by 400% or more to get a distinct shot. In other cases, I went overboard on the brightness/contrast, because you’d never be able to see the monsters otherwise. JUST DEAL WITH IT.
3) Many of these images come from the DVD extras, so pardon the ones that seem “unpolished.”
4) Gotta give major props to the people behind this awesome TCITW wiki, who did much of the legwork in pointing out which monsters were which, and where they could be found. They did such a great job, in fact, that my little tribute is almost redundant. But I don’t care. There was no way I wasn’t going to do this feature.
#1: Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain
A Cenobite in spirit!
Fornicus is easily my favorite monster in the movie, and I don’t think I’d be anywhere near as into The Cabin in the Woods without him. Clearly inspired by Pinhead of Hellraiser fame, Fornicus is a hellish torturer who even carries a spin on the Lament Configuration! Calm, collected and with big saws in his head, Fornicus is one of the first “other monsters” seen in the film – a veritable tide-turner who told us that this movie was about to go neck-deep in awesomeness.
#2: The Ancient Ones
They’ll give you a hand, oh ho ho.
Maybe it’s a cheat to count the Ancient Ones among the “monsters,” but how could I not include them? Seen only in the movie’s final scene, we find out that the ritual was indeed merited, and that giant, vengeful gods really would destroy the planet if they weren’t appeased. I’m a sucker for the “oh shit, everyone’s doomed” horror movie ending, and the fact the world was about to meet its end at the hands of ashy giants just made it all the better.
#3: Killer Clown!
Everybody’s running when the circus come into their town…
In a nod to Pennywise from Stephen King’s It, Killer Clown had one of the best moments of the purge. Stalking a fallen security guard and practically laughing off her bullets, he dives in with a knife and… you can guess the rest. It’s a shame that Terry Notary’s portrayal wasn’t credited. Small as the role was, he really delivered on the “psycho clown” gestures and facials.
#4: Vine-Covered Bull Demon
…was probably never meant to be seen up close.
I have no idea what this guy is supposed to be, but that’s what makes him so interesting. Like many on this list, the Vine-Covered Bull Demon was strictly a “cube monster,” and likely never meant to be seen this close. (This image was pulled from one of the DVD’s special features.) As such, his costume is pretty unpolished, almost as if they used the leftover parts from various other monsters. The random vines are especially intriguing — perhaps the Bull Demon could summon killer plants at will?
#5: The Kraken
Water is no longer mandatory.
Only a tentacle is seen, but this monster was obviously inspired by the legendary Kraken. I imagine that those cubes had some screwy subspace arrangement in play, because this is just one of several monsters that should never have been able to fit in one. Mind you, I’m not complaining. I’ve been on boats at night, and when it was foggy enough, I’d be lying if I said that creatures like this didn’t creep into my brain.
#6: The Blob
Or perhaps a dead octopus, or a giant sneeze?
The Blob is a direct reference to the movie of the same name, and yet another monster that you can only get a good look at in the special features. I can’t figure out what they built it out of, but the fact that I can’t rule out “actual decomposing octopus” means they put a lot of work into this thing.
#7: The Doctors
They recommend… amputation.
During the purge, there’s a great quick shot of these doctors, preparing to perform surgery on a “patient.” Even in the stupidest horror movies, the “mad doctor” thing works for me. It’s always scary and always unsettling. I’d probably choose to die at the hands of any other TCITW monster before these dudes.
#8: Angry Molesting Tree
It just wants to get to know you better.
The Angry Molesting Tree (actual name) was thrown in as a tribute to The Evil Dead. If you’ve never seen The Evil Dead, there’s a tree that comes alive and… um… penetrates a poor girl in the woods. It isn’t what the movie is famous for, but in another way, it is. The Angry Molesting Tree is only seen during the opening moments of the purge, snatching a guard to do things you don’t want to know about.
Icy. Presumed deadly.
A strong argument can be made that the whiteboard is TCITW’s most iconic image. Aside from putting names to many of the monsters that might have been too obscure to identify otherwise, the list of potential baddies also includes a few that never turned up in the movie. Among them is THE SNOWMAN. (Likely in tribute to Jack Frost. Not the Michael Keaton version.) Even if it’s never seen, the mere idea of a monster snowman easily cracks my top 30.
#10: Toxic Mutants!
Transplanted from those hills… those hills with the eyes.
Plenty of mutants are seen during the purge, and if you look close at the monitors, they do some pretty disgusting stuff. (So disgusting, actually, that I’m very intentionally avoiding any descriptions of it.) There are too many movies with monsters like this to say which inspired them for certain. I prefer to think of them as rejects from The Hills Have Eyes, because even if the Buckner family (see #24) cover part of that ground, these random mutants seem to fit the bill more closely. (Admittedly, I chose the wrong mutant to support my argument, since this one appears to be in a hospital gown – which hints more at a “disease outbreak” film. Oh well. I just liked the green blood.)
See #11-20 on the next page!