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Did Joss Whedon lift the plot of ‘Cabin in the Woods’ from this author?

A former Venice Beach hawker says he sold his book blocks away from Whedon's office.


Aja Romano


Posted on Apr 15, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 1:53 am CDT

A new lawsuit alleges that the plot of Joss Whedon’s cult horror hit Cabin in the Woods was lifted from an unexpected source: indie author Peter Gallagher.

Now the author wants $10 million in damages from Whedon and Lionsgate for copyright infringement. (You can read the full complaint here.)

If you were lucky enough to stroll down the Venice Beach boardwalk between 2006 and 2007, you might have noticed this man hawking his wares.

That man is Peter Gallagher, and the book he’s selling is a horror novel called A Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines. Like Whedon’s breakout subversive film, Gallagher’s book is about a group of characters who go on a trip to a deserted cabin in the woods and begin dying in terrifying incidents (so far, so cliche), only to discover that (spoilers ahead) the horror they’re experiencing is being orchestrated by secret conspirators with nefarious purposes.

The Little White Trip/Blogspot

Gallagher self-published his book and initially printed 2,500 copies to sell to the Santa Monica boardwalk, just blocks away from Whedon’s Santa Monica office. 

The lawsuit claims that local press attention, given to the book years ago, publicized its tagline as “a different way of telling a story you think you’ve heard before.”

Gallagher alleges this blurb is “strikingly similar” to the tagline of Cabin in the Woods: “You think you know the story.” He also alleges that the works are similar in terms of character dynamics—specifically which hot girl hooks up with which hot guy. The full complaint cites the similarities as follows:

In both works the female brunette lead (Dura/Dana) has a romantic relationship with the more sensitive, shy, and mature male (Matt/Holden) which culminates in a love scene in front of the fireplace. Similarly, in both works the female blonde lead (Julie/Jules) has a relationship with the strong, charismatic male character who drinks regularly and looks like a movie star (Ian/Curt). The appearance and behavior of the third male lead (Sam/Marty) is similar in both works. Both have quirky personalities, have messy dirty blonde hair, wear a grey shirt and jeans throughout the film, smoke marijuana, and enjoy gazing up at the stars.

This all sounds fairly generic, especially considering Cabin in the Woods was intended to play off tired horror tropes before turning the genre on its head.

Gallagher’s book does promise to subvert your expectations. “Don’t expect the good guy to get the girl, or the murderer to come back for that one last attack scene,” he writes. But apart from subverting the basic horror trope of terror in the woods, A Night in the Pines doesn’t seem to be a complete template for The Cabin in the Woods. For one thing, the protagonist in The Cabin in the Woods is female, while the main character in A Little Trip in the Pines is a boy who claims to have told his “real” story to the author Peter Gallagher. While the story-within-a-story framework is a staple of horror, Whedon uses it to a different end in Cabin

Then there’s the fact that (more spoilers ahoy) the protagonist of Little White Trip actually survives to tell the tale. If you’ve seen Cabin, you know that’s an indication that the plots of both stories diverge wildly.

Moreover, the big twist that the whole cabin setup is staged in Whedon’s film is the cue for a lot more plot development as we learn more about why it’s happening. In A Little Trip, the big twist comes just at the end, and without any explanation.

But you can judge for yourself: Since leaving the Venice Beach area for warmer Arizona climes, Gallagher has made his work available online for free, for all to enjoy. 

H/T Hollywood Reporter | Photo via The Little White Trip/Blogspot

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*First Published: Apr 15, 2015, 1:06 pm CDT