The cabin in the woods: representation and repetition

As I’m writing an essay about the uncanny relationship to Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (1965) and Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), I’m thinking about the slipages that occur between imitation and homage in creative forms. Where does the impulse come from to manifest a narrative, a style, an atmosphere come from?Where is the boundary border between being on the safe side of homage rather than the evil side of plagiarism? And how does this influence perpetuate the evolvement and dissemination of the horror genre?

In a collusion of similar thoughts, yesterday I looking at the cabin paintings from the 1990s by Peter Doig. Knowing his interest in horror film, seen in his culling from Friday the 13th (1980) imagery, I’ve tended to draw a correlation to this cabin series and the pervasive use of the isolated cabin in the woods in horror films. The claustrophobia of the forrest, shown frenetically and close up in Doig’s paintings, is situated around the idilic solitude of the house. This notion, of course, tends to explode in horror cinema – man is not safe, not even and especially, in nature. 

So as I look to Doig’s “homage/influence” from horror, I noticed that perhaps horror film is producing a mutual admiration. How did I come to think this? Seeing the poster for Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods (2012) I felt something familiar. There was something about that cabin, mirroring itself, reflection both an above world and a reality below that struck a nerve. Then I remembered Doig’s cabin paintings, his layering on imagery, the spatiality he establishes in his work:

Peter Doig – Camp Forestia (1996), Oil on canvas


The similarities between Camp Forestia and The Cabin in the Woods poster suggest that visual art and horror film might just be bouncing ideas (concept and design) off of each other. Intentional or not, this type of intense self-reflexivity means that these ideas about the representation of horror are contagious. My only hope is that there is still room in which to facilitate the production of new generative images and narratives.