10 Twisted Facts About The Cabin in the Woods

 Diyah Pera, Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Diyah Pera, Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Revered by horror lovers and haters alike, The Cabin in the WoodsDrew Goddard’s directorial debut—twisted the genre into something new, kicking it in the pants the same way Wes Craven's Scream did for slasher films in the 1990s. The 2012 film tossed genre clichés into the blender to create something surprising that also forced us to question our own, voyeuristic love of watching people get fictionally murdered.

In typical trope-y fashion, a group of young, attractive men and women head to a remote, ahem, cabin in the woods where they accidentally call down their own creepy doom that they can’t avoid because they make super dumb decisions. Fortunately, there’s a government bureaucracy to explain why they can’t escape slow-moving zombie killers.

Here are 10 facts about the meta commentary on scary movies.

1. THE OPENING SCENE WAS MEANT TO CONFUSE AUDIENCES.

“Opening the movie with this scene is one of my favorite things that we accomplished,” co-writer/producer Joss Whedon said in the DVD commentary about the early sequence where Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins chit-chat in a hallway about childproofing cabinets and an office betting pool. They purposefully wanted people to think they’d sat down for the wrong movie and had to convince the studio that people wouldn’t walk out.

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE NUKES AT LOS ALAMOS.

Sure, it’s a slasher flick, but The Cabin in the Woods is really about bored employees ensuring the success of murder machines in the face of the end of the world. It might not be that surprising to learn that Goddard grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. “The whole town exists because it’s a government lab that designs weapons. And that’s the only reason the town exists,” Goddard said. He and the production used images from Los Alamos in the 1950s to craft the set and even some costumes.

3. HORROR ICON HEATHER LANGENKAMP DID THE SPECIAL MAKEUP EFFECTS.

Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp in 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)
Melissa Moseley, New Line Cinema Entertainment

Legendary Final Girl Heather Langenkamp is known for playing Nancy in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, but she and her husband David LeRoy Anderson also do prosthetic makeup, monster costumes, and makeup effects through their company AFX Studio. She’s listed in the credits as Heather L. Anderson.

4. THE WOLF HEAD HAD POWERED SUGAR ON IT.

If you’re gonna make out with a taxidermized wolf head, a little sugar helps the medicine go down. That’s why prop master Dan Sissons helped out Anna Hutchison during her Truth or Dare scene with some powdered sweet stuff on the wolf’s tongue (which was detachable and made from silicone).

5. DREW GODDARD AND JOSS WHEDON MADE IT AS A “LOVING HATE LETTER."

L to R: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard on the set of 'The Cabin in the Woods' (2012)
Diyah Pera, Lionsgate Home Entertainment

The reason The Cabin in the Woods works for horror fans and non-fans alike is that it hews closely to the classic rules for the genre to deliver the scares, but also mocks them mercilessly. Whedon saw it as both an exercise in how much fun they could have (they wrote it over a single weekend) and as a serious critique of a genre they loved that had descended under a wave of needless torture and stupid characters crafted solely to be killed in terrible ways.

6. THERE WAS GOING TO BE A VIDEO GAME TIE-IN.

Video game tie-ins have become the standard for a ton of genre movies, but instead of making a crappy game on the cheap, The Cabin in the Woods was going to be ported into the already-popular Left 4 Dead series. It was a natural fit, as players could have fought their way through both the cabin setting and the underground bureaucratic office. There are still Left 4 Dead monsters inside the cube facility in the movie, but the movie never made its way into the game because the original studio went bankrupt, and the delay in release killed the crossover.

7. THE BREAKFAST CLUB HELPED SHAPE THE SCRIPT.

Kristen Connolly and Jesse Williams star in 'The Cabin in the Woods' (2012)
Diyah Pera, Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Who’s the villain of The Cabin in the Woods? The college crew getting drunk, having fun, and just trying to survive? The government entity putting them through the ringer to save the world? The Old Gods that demand blood? One reason the movie connected with such a wide audience is because all the characters display a distinct philosophy that we can relate to. Chris Hemsworth and friends don’t want to die, but the entire world depends on them getting slashed. According to Goddard, we have him watching The Breakfast Club as an adult to understand the non-teens’ perspective to thank for The Cabin in the Woods’ moral complexity.

8. THE FULL LIST OF MONSTERS INCLUDES A NOD TO SIN CITY.

There are too many baddies to name here (so here’s a list), but among the witches, sexy witches, mermen, and unicorns, there’s Kevin. He’s a kind-seeming dude who might show you where the movie section is in Best Buy but dismembers people during his time off. It’s possible that he’s a reference to the relaxed, quietly sadistic slasher played by Elijah Wood in the movie version of Sin City.

9. ONE OF THE MONSTERS IN THE CUBE FACILITY IS JUST A GIANT CAT.

Obviously the movie is crammed with references to genre icons like vampires, creepy clowns, mummies, zombies, Kevin, mermen, Hell Lords, and aliens, but there’s also just a big ol’ cat that could have ripped the attractive young people apart one by one. The Egyptian cat statue in the basement is what summons it, and it presumably would have tormented the kids by apathetically knocking things off shelves and cuddling.

10. THE BODY COUNT IS OFFICIALLY 69 BUT IT’S TECHNICALLY WAY HIGHER.

The next time this question pops up at bar trivia, you’ll know that 69 bodies hit the floor during the movie’s runtime, but if you want to be annoying about it, the death toll is technically 6,800,000,000 because that was the world population in 2009, when the film was shot, and the story ends with the planet’s destruction (which is also why it’s weird that people keep asking about a sequel).

7 Things You Might Not Know About Mario Lopez

Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley
Angela Weiss, Getty Images for Oakley

While several of the actors featured in the 1990s young-adult series Saved by the Bell have fared well following the show’s end in 1994, Mario Lopez is in a class by himself. The versatile actor-emcee can be seen regularly on Extra, as host of innumerable beauty pageants, and as the author of several best-selling books on fitness. For more on Lopez, check out some of the more compelling facts we’ve rounded up on the multi-talented performer.

1. A WITCH DOCTOR SAVED HIS LIFE.

Born on October 10, 1973, in San Diego, California to parents Mario and Elvia Lopez, young Mario was initially the picture of health. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. In his 2014 autobiography, Just Between Us, Lopez wrote that he began having digestive problems immediately after birth, shrinking to just four pounds. Though doctors administered IV hydration, they told his parents nothing more could be done. Desperate, his father reached out to a witch doctor near Rosarito, Mexico who had cured his spinal ailments years earlier. The healer mixed a drink made of Pedialyte, Carnation evaporated milk, goat’s milk, and other unknown substances. It worked: Lopez kept it down and began growing, so much so that his mother declared him “the fattest baby you had ever seen in your life.”

2. HE STARTED ACTING AT 10.

A highly active kid who got involved in both tap and jazz dancing and amateur wrestling, Lopez was spotted by a talent scout during a dance competition at age 10 and was later cast in a sitcom, a.k.a. Pablo, in 1984. That led to a role in the variety show Kids Incorporated and in the 1988 Sean Penn feature film Colors. In 1989, at the age of 16, he won the role of Albert Clifford “A.C.” Slater in Saved by the Bell. By 1992, Lopez was making public appearances at malls, where female fans would regularly toss their underthings in his direction.

3. HE COULD PROBABLY BEAT YOU UP.

Lopez wrestled as an amateur throughout high school. According to the Chula Vista High School Foundation, Lopez was a state placewinner at 189 pounds in 1990. (On Saved by the Bell, Slater was also a wrestler.) He later complemented his grappling ability with boxing, often sparring professionals like Jimmy Lange and Oscar De La Hoya in bouts for charity. In 2018, Lopez posted on Instagram that he received his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Gracie Barra Glendale instructor Robert Hill.

4. HE TURNED DOWN PLAYGIRL.

Lopez’s active lifestyle has made for a trim physique, but he’s apparently unwilling to take off more than his shirt. In 2008, Lopez said he was approached to pose for Playgirl but declined. The magazine reportedly offered him $200,000.

5. HE WAS MARRIED FOR TWO WEEKS.

Lopez had a well-publicized marriage to actress Ali Landry, but not for all the right reasons. The two were married in April 2004 and split just two weeks later, with Landry alleging Lopez had not been faithful. Lopez later disclosed he had made a miscalculation during his bachelor party in Mexico, cheating on Landry just days before the ceremony.

6. HE APPEARED ON BROADWAY.

Lopez joined the cast of Broadway’s A Chorus Line in 2008, portraying Zach, the director who coaches the cast of aspiring dancers. (It was his first stage appearance since he participated in a grade school play, where he played a tree.) His run, which lasted five months, was perceived to be part of a rash of casting choices on Broadway revolving around hunky performers to attract audiences. The role was thought to be the start of a resurgence for Lopez, who had previously appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has been a co-host of the pop culture newsmagazine show Extra since 2007.

7. HE BELIEVES HIS DOG SUFFERED FROM POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

In 2010, Lopez and then-girlfriend (now wife) Courtney Mazza had their first child, Gia. According to Lopez, his French bulldog, Julio César Chavez Lopez, exhibited signs of depression following the new addition to the household. Lopez also said he used his extensive knowledge of dogs to better inform his voiceover work as a Labrador retriever in 2009’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas and 2010’s The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation.

The Legend of Cry Baby Lane: The Lost Nickelodeon Movie That Was Too Scary for TV

Nickelodeon, Viacom
Nickelodeon, Viacom

Several years ago, rumors about a lost Nickelodeon movie branded too disturbing for children’s television began popping up around the internet. They all referenced the same plot: A father of conjoined twins was so ashamed of his sons that he hid them away throughout their childhood. (This being a made-for-TV horror movie, naturally one of the twins was evil.)

After one twin got sick the other soon followed, with both boys eventually succumbing to the illness. To keep the town from discovering his secret, the father separated their bodies with a rusty saw and buried the good one at the local cemetery and the evil one at the end of a desolate dirt road called Cry Baby Lane, which also happened to be the title of the rumored film. According to the local undertaker, anyone who ventured down Cry Baby Lane after dark could hear the evil brother crying from beyond the grave.

Cry Baby Lane then jumps to present day (well, present day in 2000), where a group of teens sneaks into the local graveyard in an effort to contact the spirit of the good twin. After holding a seance, they learn that the boys' father had made a mistake and mixed up the bodies of his children—burying the good son at the end of Cry Baby Lane and the evil one in the cemetery. Meaning those ghostly wails were actually the good twin crying out for help. But the teens realized the error too late: The evil twin had already been summoned and quickly began possessing the local townspeople.

MOVIE OR MYTH?

Parents were appalled that such dark content ever made it onto the family-friendly network, or so the story goes, and after airing the film once the Saturday before Halloween in 2000, Nickelodeon promptly scrubbed it from existence. But with no video evidence of it online for years, some people questioned whether Cry Baby Lane had ever really existed in the first place.

“Okay, so this story sounds completely fake, Nick would NEVER air this on TV,” one Kongregate forum poster said in September 2011. “And why would this be made knowing it’s for kids? This story just sounds too fake …”

While the folklore surrounding the film may not be 100 percent factual, Nickelodeon quickly confirmed that the “lost” Halloween movie was very real, and that it did indeed contained all the rumored twisted elements that have made it into a legend.

Before Cry Baby Lane was a blip in Nick’s primetime schedule, it was nearly a $100 million theatrical release. Peter Lauer, who had previously directed episodes of the Nick shows The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Adventures of Pete & Pete, co-wrote the screenplay with KaBlam! co-creator Robert Mittenthal. Cry Baby Lane, which would eventually spawn urban legends of its own, was inspired by a local ghost story Lauer heard growing up in Ohio. “There was a haunted farmhouse, and if you went up there at midnight, you could hear a baby crying and it’d make your high school girlfriend scared,” he told The Daily.

BIG SCARES ON A SMALL BUDGET

Despite Nickelodeon’s well-meaning intentions, parent company Paramount wasn’t keen on the idea of turning the screenplay into a feature film. The script was forgotten for about a year, until Nick got in touch with Lauer about producing Cry Baby Lane—only this time as a $800,000 made-for-TV movie. The director gladly signed on.

Even with the now-meager budget, Cry Baby Lane maintained many of the same elements of a much larger picture. In a bid to generate more publicity around the project, Nickelodeon cast Oscar nominee Frank Langella as the local undertaker (a role Lauer had originally wanted Tom Waits to play). All the biggest set pieces from the screenplay were kept intact, and as a result, the crew had no money left to do any extra filming.

Only two scenes from the movie ended up getting cut—one that alluded to skinny dipping and another that depicted an old man’s head fused onto the body of a baby in a cemetery. The story of a father performing amateur surgery on the corpses of his sons, however, made it into the final film.

The truth of what happened after Cry Baby Lane premiered on October 28, 2000 has been muddied over the years. In most retellings, Nickelodeon received an "unprecedented number" of complaints about the film and responded by sealing it away in its vault and acting like the whole thing never happened. But if that version of events is true, Nick has never acknowledged it.

Even Lauer wasn’t aware of any backlash from parents concerned about the potentially scarring effects of the film until The Daily made him aware of the rumors years later. “All I know is that they aired it once,” he told the paper. “I just assumed they didn’t show it again because they didn’t like it! I did it, I thought it failed, and I moved on.”

But the idea that the movie was pulled from airwaves for being too scary for kids isn’t so far-fetched. Though Cry Baby Lane never shows the conjoined twins being sawed apart on screen, it does pair the already-unsettling story with creepy images of writhing worms, broken glass, and animal skulls. This opening sequence, combined with the spooky, empty-eyed victims of possession that appear later, and multiple scenes where a child gets swallowed by a grave, may have made the film slightly more intense than the average episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

IMPERFECT TIMING

Cry Baby Lane premiered at a strange time in internet history: Too early for pirated copies to immediately spring up online yet late enough for it to grow into a web-fueled folktale. The fervor surrounding the film peaked in 2011, when a viral Reddit thread about Cry Baby Lane caught the attention of one user claiming to have the so-called “lost” film recorded on VHS. He later uploaded the tape for the world to view and suddenly the lost movie was lost no longer.

News of the unearthed movie made waves across the web, and instead of staying quiet and waiting for the story to die down, Nickelodeon decided to get in on the hype. That Halloween, Nick aired Cry Baby Lane for the first time in over a decade. Regardless of whether the movie had previously been banned or merely forgotten, the network used the mystery surrounding its origins to their PR advantage.

“We tried to freak people out with it,” a Nick employee who worked at The 90s Are All That (now The Splat), the programming block that resurrected Cry Baby Lane (and who wished to remain anonymous) said of the promotional campaign for the event. “They were creepy and a little glitchy. We were like, ‘This never aired because it was too scary and we’re going to air it now.’”

Cry Baby Lane now makes regular appearances on Nickelodeon’s '90s block around Halloween, which likely means Nick hasn’t received enough complaints to warrant locking it back in the vault. And during less spooky times of the year, nostalgic horror fans can find the full movie on YouTube.

The mystery surrounding Cry Baby Lane’s existence may have been solved, but the urban legend of the movie that was “too scary for kids’ TV” persists—even at the network that produced it.

“People who were definitely working at Nickelodeon in 2000, but didn’t necessarily work on [Cry Baby Lane] were like, ‘Yeah I heard about it, I remember it being a thing,'" the Nick employee says. “It’s sort of like its own legend within the company.”

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