Drew Goddard’s critically acclaimed 2012 directorial debut — a satirical love-hate letter to horror — refused to be boxed into a single genre. It did, however, box a seemingly infinite amount of creatures into elevator cubes for a memorable sequence before the party got started in the final act.
Designed to mimic a perpetually shifting Rubik’s Cube on steroids, the individual containers housed abominations both classic and imagined by Cabin‘s crew. “Everyone had a chance to design a monster,” Goddard recalls. “We had so much material to work with.” He takes us on a tour of some of his favorites.
1. In Plain Fright
The monsters didn’t always have to look elaborate. “The simplest creatures tended to be the freakiest,” Goddard says. Case in point: the family in doll masks (“I want to make a whole movie just about them”), the naked man suffocating in plastic, and the KKK. “When you’re thinking of the great evils of the world, I would put the KKK near the top of the list.”
2. Classic Callouts
Goddard was careful not to shower the scene with references to horror staples — “The spirit of [Cabin] dictated that we do our own thing” — but even he couldn’t resist a few nods. Ones that made the cut: The Shining, The Blob, and Reavers from Firefly (a shout-out to Cabin co-writer Joss Whedon).
3. Gigantic Beasts (and How to Fear Them)
Cats and tarantulas and snakes, oh my! To make regular animals look huge, the crew built smaller cubes in which they placed and shot the critters. “It worked like gangbusters,” Goddard says, adding that the unconventional cat-as-monster may have been personally inspired: “I am hilariously allergic to them,” he admits with a laugh.
4. Garden of Evil
A tip of the hat to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise, the “Angry Molesting Tree” featured heavily in Cabin because Goddard simply couldn’t get enough of it. “It was like that Christopher Walken [Saturday Night Live] sketch — ‘More cowbell!'” he explains. “Every time I saw a shot, I’d say, ‘More Molesting Tree!'”
5. Die, Robot
The killer robot seen scampering throughout the film was, believe it or not, based on a dog. “The idea of a giant Saint Bernard with buzz saws delighted all of us,” Goddard says with a chuckle. “And then we thought, ‘The more buzz saws, the better.'” Just don’t try to pet him.
6. Stars of the (Freak) Show
Only a few of the many monsters could grab major screen time. The off-putting elegance of the Whedon-created ballerina made her extra-ready for her close-up, while Goddard preferred the man with saws in his skull who, to his chagrin, was only called “Hell Lord” at first: “I said, ‘We gotta give him a better name. I just wrote, ‘Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain.'” Much better!
7. Two of a Kind
The “Dismemberment Goblins,” Goddard’s favorite, had one goal and one goal only: to dismember things. “In my mind, if you asked them to fill out likes and dislikes, all they would write in likes is ‘dismembering,’ and in dislikes, ‘not dismembering,'” he says, laughing. “They’re just having so much fun in all the chaos.” Plus, they’ve got a “best-friends vibe,” Goddard points out. And friends don’t let friends not dismember.
8. Gross Anatomy
Oscar-winning special-makeup-effects designer David Leroy Anderson came up with most of the creatures and tended to overthink things — in a good way! “Dave said, ‘Hey, Drew, would it be okay if the merman had a blowhole on it?'” Goddard remembers. “He had thought, if the merman was going to bite someone’s face off, where would the blood go? That made me so happy.” Us, too.