01/06/2012. Contributed by Patrick Mahon
pub: Titan Books. 295 page paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK), $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-84856-526-5.
check out websites: www.titanbooks.comand www.timlebbon.com
Tim Lebbon is a British author of horror and fantasy fiction who has written over twenty novels, as well as large numbers of short stories. His novelisation of '30 Days Of Night' won a Scribe Award in 2008, so he clearly knows what is involved in adapting a film into a novel. Has he been able to repeat his earlier success with this novelisation of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's genre-bending 'The Cabin In The Woods'?
The order of events in the novelisation keeps pretty closely to that in the film. So it starts by introducing us to Steve Hadley and Gary Sitterson, two American white collar workers exchanging banter as they get their morning coffees. What they are doing in this horror story is initially unclear, but their conversation quickly gives us a good picture of their characters and home lives, even if what they do for a living is less clear. Then we switch to an un-named US college campus, where we meet five students who know each other to varying degrees. They are about to go away together for a wild weekend in a cabin in the woods. They seem like a nice bunch. There are two women. Jules is very confident with her sexuality while Dana is more reserved. Jules' boyfriend Curt is coming too, along with his new friend and fellow American football player, Holden, and Marty, who is the quintessential pot-smoking laid-back hippy. Lebbon paints brief but animated pen-pictures of each one, bringing them quickly to life and putting the reader on their side.
Our five friends get in a van and head off for the woods. Apart from a strange encounter with a rude attendant at a ramshackle gas station in the middle of nowhere, their journey passes without incident. When they get to the cabin there are a few oddities, such as the one-way mirror between two of the bedrooms, which is covered by a horrific painting of a sheep being ripped to pieces by some men and their dogs. However, the cabin itself is lovely, as are the lake outside and the surrounding woods. As they unpack, change and go for a dip in the lake, everything seems right with the world.
Little do they know that every move they make is being watched by Hadley and Sitterson, who are seated in a control room that looks like something NASA might use for a space shuttle mission. It's not clear why they're watching, but it quickly becomes obvious that the five students are being manipulated. When they explore the cabin's basement, it is stuffed full of antiques and oddities. Dana picks up a 1903 diary left by one of the cabin's original owners and starts to read it. Although she doesn't know it, this is the cue for the start of the nightmare that is about to engulf her and her four friends.
With a novelisation of a film, the author clearly has to stick very closely to the plot laid out in the screenplay. His task is to expand that screenplay into a full-realised work of fiction that obeys all the rules that novel readers expect. Tim Lebbon does this very well. The book works as a free-standing horror story, regardless of its roots in Whedon and Goddard's screenplay. The characters are given their own identities in enough detail that I think they would come across well to a reader whether or not they had watched the film. Equally, the novel is well-paced, pulling you from one incident to the next with barely a pause for breath. This is where Lebbon's extensive previous experience as a novelist comes into its own. He knows how to pace and structure a horror story for maximum impact and uses that knowledge to good effect here.
There are weaknesses to the story. However, most of them are dictated by the original screenplay, so Lebbon has no choice but to include them in the novelisation. As a piece of writing, I could find little to fault with what he's done.
In conclusion, this is a well-written novelisation by an author in control of characterisation, pace and plotting. If you've seen the film version of 'The Cabin In The Woods', I think you'll enjoy this book version, too. If you missed the film, this book could be your best way of finding out what all the fuss was about, especially since a release date for the DVD version has not yet been announced.
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