When it was released in 2012, The Cabin in the Woods was hailed as a novel reinterpretation of the slasher genre of horror movies. It was nominated for and won numerous awards, and received critical acclaim.
And now it is the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit.
The Wrap reports that an indie author by the name of Peter Gallagher has accused Joss Whedon, LionsGate Films, and other parties of ripping off a novel which Gallagher published in 2006.
The Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines reportedly tells the tale of a group of 5 friends who take a trip to a remote cabin in the woods. According to The Wrap, in the novel the cabin’s previous inhabitants were murdered by the father of the family, who returns to terrorize the group of friends. Later in the book this was revealed to be a trick. The friends were being recorded during all that time, and had been made involuntary participants in a snuff film.
I haven't been able to get my hands on the book yet and confirm the accuracy of the claims, but The Wrap reported that not only were there similarities in the plot points the characters also had similar names. The two main female characters in his book are named Julie and Dura, where in the film they’re named Jules and Dana.
So is there any truth to this story, do you think?
Without reading the book and seeing both early and late versions of the script, I can't say. But I do know that this type of case often hinges on proving that the defendant had access to the infringed work, and I'm not sure that Gallagher will be able to prove a connection.
I've checked, and it's almost impossible to get a copy of the novel.
The book is not available in the Kindle Store or any other ebookstore. The author appears to be selling it direct from his own site, yes, but aside from that your options are limited. Bookfinder could only find 5 sites which have a copy. The cheapest was Amazon.com, where the best price was $46 (used).
Update: A reader pointed out that the ebook is available on Scribd as a marginally readable PDF. Thanks, Rain!
The author also said that he had sold his book as a street vendor and "hawked them in areas including Santa Monica, Calif., the Venice Beach boardwalk and the Hollywood Walk of Fame". I suppose that could be the path which the book may have made its way into the hands of the defendants.
But I would not assume that to be the case.
Sure, there are similarities between the novel and the movie, but both made intentional use of common horror flick tropes. The ages of the victims, the setting, and the initial setup are so common as to be cliches. You could just as easily claim that Gallagher lifted the details from some random 1980s horror film, that's how common some of the details were.
And then there are the radically different endings. In the book, the characters were dragooned into a snuff film (or so The Wrap reports), while in the movie the main characters were intended as a sacrifice to appease the elder gods. Those are radically different conclusions.
I can see how one could have inspired the other but I can also see the chance that they were created independently. There's also a chance that the Cabin script started as a recycled story from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the TV series Joss Whedon created in the late 1990s.
Unless someone can show how Gallagher's book got into someone's hands at LionsGate, I would not assume infringement.