The Cabin in the Woods was one of the most original takes on the “kids encounter scary things in the woods” story that we’ve seen in ages, but one man is claiming that it’s not original at all. Author Peter Gallagher is suing the filmmakers, claiming that the film is infringing on his 2006 novel The Little White Trip: A Night In the Pines.
This post contains spoilers for The Cabin in the Woods and The Little White Trip.
The Hollywood Reporter snagged Gallagher’s complaint for copyright infringement, which he filed against Lions Gate Entertainment, Mutant Enemy, The Cabin in the Woods co-writer Joss Whedon, and co-writer and director Drew Goddard. You can read the entire complaint online, which lays out the alleged similarities between the book and the film.
It’s hard to say how profound these similarities are without reading the book (it’s available for free as an ebook through Scribd), but Gallagher’s complaint lists two dozen side-by-side, including similarities between some of the names. In The Little White Trip, for example, the female characters (one blonde, one brunette) are named Jules and Dura and they visit a cabin called “Brinkley house.” In The Cabin in the Woods, the female characters (one blonde, one brunette) are named Julie and Dana and they visit a cabin called “Buckner house.” In both books, the five protagonists receive a dire warning before arriving at the cabin, rummage through the cabin’s storage area, drink and flirt, and are subsequently terrorized by murderous forces.
Both the book and the film contain a twist as well: in The Little White Trip, it turns out that the kids are being manipulated and filmed for a reality show; in The Cabin in the Woods, they’re also being manipulated and filmed, but as part of a secret ritual to appease horrific cosmic forces. And that’s what makes an assessment of Gallagher’s claims based on the complaint alone so difficult. Yes, there are a number of (at least) skeletal similarities between the two works, but the point of The Cabin in the Woods is that it utilizes a ton of classic horror tropes in order to tear them apart. We haven’t gotten a chance to read the book, but it may be that the tropes the two works employ line up by sheer coincidence. We’ll have to see if this lawsuit ends up moving forward and what happens if judges start weighing in on the merits of the case.