During the lake scene, the only student not to jump into the lake is Marty, who remains fully clothed on the dock. This was partially due to Fran Kranz noticeably being in as good, if not better, shape than the other male students. In the commentary for the film, the writers joke that he was "ripped like muscular Jesus" and assert that if Marty were shown being that fit it would ruin the character. This is partly also why Marty wears baggier clothes than the other students.
Much of Drew Goddard's inspiration for this movie came from his own upbringing in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a place filled with scientists and co-workers all going about their business and living seemingly routine and ordinary lives even though they were building nuclear weapons that could potentially destroy the entire world. He talks about this in DVD special features interviews and commentary.
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon wrote the screenplay for themselves after both came off failed film projects. They locked themselves up in a hotel room in order to challenge themselves, and wrote almost the entire script in one weekend.
During production, MGM saw the dailies of a scene where Chris Hemsworth instructs his friends. On the basis of his performance, they signed him on for Red Dawn (2012). Two days later, Hemsworth was also chosen to play the lead in Thor (2011). Both Red Dawn and The Cabin in the Woods would eventually be delayed for several years when MGM went bankrupt, and were finally released a year after Thor.
Fran Kranz received extensive prop and behavior training in order to capture the stoner persona of Marty. He received a two-hour joint rolling session and a separate bong lighting session from expert consultants. In addition to the famous travel-mug bong, a number of more subtle marijuana paraphernalia appear in the film. These include Marty's stash, his secret stash, a smaller pipe, a 'tulip-joint', and a joint kept in the pocket of his pants. The prop crew even designed the film's own brand of rolling papers, 'Smiling Buddha' papers.
After the film was shelved due to the studio's bankruptcy, even director Drew Goddard and producer Joss Whedon had little faith in it, until Lionsgate saw the finished film, loved it and picked it up for release.
The scene where Curt asks Jules about the textbooks, "What are you doing with these? Who gave you these? Who taught you about these?" and she answers, "I learned it from you! Okay? I learned them from watching you!" is a take-off on a 1987 Anti-Drug PSA where the father confronts his son about drug paraphernalia and gets a similar answer.
The film's release date was postponed because the studio wanted to convert it to 3D, despite objections from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. These plans were eventually scrapped, and the film was released only in 2D.
Screenwriters Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon had considered several directors, including Victor Salva, as both men liked his Jeepers Creepers (2001) and its sequel. Goddard was actually hoping to direct himself, until Whedon also stated the desire to direct his own screenplay. Finally, Whedon allowed Goddard to do the honors while he produced the movie.
Maya Massar claimed that it took 8 hours to apply her makeup for the character of Mother Buckner the first time. She noted that after the first application it still took between 4 and 6 hours to apply her makeup for each day of filming.
The blood spewing out of the merman's blowhole was a very late idea that made it into the film. The director jokes that the blood shot out for nine minutes, but only the last ten seconds of this shot were actually used.
The film was originally scheduled for release in Australia on the 12th of July, 2012, but was pulled by its distributor, Roadshow Films, in late April. Already incensed by the delayed release, the news of canceling its cinema run altogether prompted backlash from fans who filled Roadshow's Twitter and Facebook feeds with angry hate mail calling for reconsideration.
The indiscernible signs Tom Lenk holds up on the monitor were intended to be visible and read "Help me. I'm in the utility closet. A dragon bat has my scent. I'm Ronald the Intern." Drew Goddard attempted to zoom in and make them readable to the audience but it simply was not possible.
The song playing at the office celebration party is "Roll with the Changes" by R E O Speedwagon. As the big screen in the background shows the last woman being slowly killed, the lyrics sing: "if you're tired of the same old story...".
After production was completed on the film, Chris Hemsworth returned as Thor the God of Thunder in The Avengers (2012) which was directed by Joss Whedon and it was Hemsworth's 2nd collaboration with Whedon.
Many of the scenes that take place in the control room were shot on location in an actual office building. As such, the production team had to shoot many of those scenes at night when the location was vacant.
When Mordecai is on speaker telling Sitterson and Hadley about how the group did not heed his warning, Sitterson and Hadley are also not heeding his warning, laughing at Mordecai's unwavering seriousness.
Drew Goddard was extremely uncomfortable directing Anna Hutchison's nude scene. Goddard attributes his high level of discomfort with nudity to his Catholic upbringing. But the director says that Hutchison was purely professional and actually comforted him by suggesting that taking her top off was not a big deal at all.
The line "Let's get this party started" is spoken three times: once by Sitterson as he and Hadley prepare to unleash hell on the group, once by curt immediately after and once by Dana as she hits the Purge button on the console to unleash the demons.
Several of the control room screens had to be manually synchronized. The sequences that take place in the underground control room feature a bay of monitors. Since the film was not made on a gigantic budget (by Hollywood standards) someone had to manually sync all of those monitors, rather than using green screen. Drew Goddard cites that as one of the most difficult aspects to pull off but also one of the most rewarding.
After MGM saw the dallies of the instructions sequence of Curt to the others following Jules' demise, they signed Hemsworth to their "Red Dawn" remake. And then two days after that, the actor landed the role of Thor.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Among the possible choices on the facility's betting board are the following: Werewolf, Alien Beast, Mutants, Wraiths, Zombies, Reptilius, Clowns, Witches, Sexy Witches, Demons, Hell Lord, Angry Molesting Tree, Giant Snake, Deadites, Mummy, The Bride, The Scarecrow Folk, Snowman, Dragonbat, Vampires, Dismemberment Goblins, Sugarplum Fairy, Merman, The Reanimated, Unicorn, Huron, Sasquatch/Wendigo/Yeti, Dolls, Zombie Redneck Torture Family, The Doctors, Jack O' Lantern, Giant, Twins, and Kevin.
Immediately after an early preview screening with fan Q&A, the first question Director Drew Goddard was asked was, "Will there be a sequel?" To which he responded, "Have you seen the ending to my movie?"
In the shot showing all the creatures in their elevator cells, you can briefly see a Tank, Witch, Boomer and a Hunter, four of the special infected from the Left 4 Dead (2008) game series. Their cameo was included to coincide with a planned tie-in expansion pack for the games where players would have to fight their way through the woods, cabin and facility from the movie. Unfortunately, the tie-in was canceled when MGM's financial problems hit.
During the elevator ride scene, when Dana realizes they have chosen their own creatures to hunt them, she is looking at what appears to be a Cenobite - a creature known from literary works and films by Clive Barker. The Cenobite wears a black latex-like outfit and has multiple saw blades inserted into its skull. It also holds what is known as "Lemarchand's box" in the form of a spherical puzzle - similar to the one Kurt was trying to solve in the basement. The most famous Lemarchand's box is the Lament Configuration, which appears in Clive Barker's Hellraiser (1987) film and its sequels. The Lament Configuration serves as a gateway that summons the Pinhead along with other Cenobites from Hell, to punish those who solved the puzzle.
According to producer Joss Whedon, the role of The Director was always intended for an actor well-known by the audience, preferably from horror movies, and he was thrilled to have Sigourney Weaver in the part. Weaver, in turn, was excited to finally be in a film that featured a werewolf.
During the rampage, one of the monsters that is briefly visible is a Reaver, a member of the fearsome tribe from Whedon's cult TV show Firefly (2002), although they were not clearly seen on screen until Serenity (2005).
On the white board in the control room when the staff are taking bets on the victims potential killers, both "Deadites" as well as "Angry Molesting Tree" are listed. These are obvious references to The Evil Dead (1981) and its sequels, most of which also took place at a cabin in the woods.
Among the various possible monsters on the control room white board, one of them is just listed as "Kevin." Although Kevin is never seen, in the tie-in book The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion co-writer Drew Goddard said that Kevin was meant to be "a sweet-looking guy who seemed like he might work at Best Buy--until he dismembers people."
If you look very closely when they first release all the monsters, there is a Flying Purple People Eater (as per the classic novelty song) in the upper left hand corner of the screen, near the ceiling.
The scene of the Merman feeding on a victim and releasing the blood through its blow hole was done by hooking the creature up to the largest container of fake blood they could find. The shot had to be filmed in one take, as the set would be covered in the fake blood afterwards (reinforcing what Sitterson said about them being difficult to clean up after).
The studio wanted the majority of the office celebration scene cut from the movie. Producer Joss Whedon managed to convince director Drew Goddard to do it, but it upset Goddard so much that Whedon finally called the studio to inform them that they wouldn't cut anything.
When Hadley releases the blood on the Fool monolith, the office suffers a slight tremor, indicating that the gods are aware that he and Sitterson were wrong in assuming the Buckner zombies killed Marty.
In the dialogue between Sitterson and Hadley about the Buckner family ("they are zombified backwoods idiots, but they are OUR zombified backwoods idiots") spoofs a famous quote from a 1948 Time Magazine article regarding Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza ("he might be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch").
The films ending is similar to the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode "Primeval"(4x21), in which a hoard of demons are released from their cages in a government facility and end up killing the majority of the staff.
The second Joss Whedon-Drew Goddard project featuring murderous scalp-happy Indian Spirits, the other being Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Pangs (1999). Both feature native American Indians with ceremonial Indian knives used to kill a victim which slits a victim's throat, slices off their left ear and then starts to (before cutting off-screen) scalp the deceased victim.
In the end the whole world is destroyed and all humans are dead. So basically every character in the movie dies, including all the extras in the background. This is a rare accomplishment even for a horror movie.