I’m always baffled and suspicious when litigation over a movie comes up years after the film has been released. That being said, the case against The Cabin in the Woods looks to have some basis in fact even though the lawsuit isn’t timely. Or at least, it isn’t timely to that film’s release; it just happens to be coming up as co-writer Joss Whedon’s new movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, is a couple weeks from hitting theaters.
According to THR, author Peter Gallagher claims Whedon, co-writer/director Drew Goddard stole the idea from his 2006 novel The Little White Trip: A Night In the Pines, and is suing the two filmmakers for copyright infringement along with distributors Lionsgate and production company Mutant Enemy. Gallagher is asking for $10 million in damages.
More often than not, the similarities are so broad that the suit is clearly frivolous. However, Gallagher does make some specific connections between his novel and Cabin in the Woods, a film that was acclaimed for its uniqueness and insight.
Gallagher points out that there are similarities between the character names and personalities. There are three men and two women; the women in the book are the blond Julie and the shy Dura, who bear some resemblance to the movie’s Jules (Anne Hutchison) and Dana (Kristen Connolly). The plot of Gallagher’s book involves mysterious operators who experiment on the characters by leaving strange items around their cabins and observing through hidden cameras.
The author furthers his claim by explaining how he self-published his novel to sell on the Venice Beach boardwalk and on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, which is near the office of the defendants. Gallagher also says that “was contacted by multiple credited entertainment industry producers who expressed interest in the Book,” although he doesn’t mention Lionsgate or Mutant Enemy.
I have trouble believing Whedon and Goddard infringed on Gallagher’s work because they’ve shown in the past that they’re creative folks who have a multitude of ideas, and while there is some specificity in Gallagher’s arguments, I’m not sure it’s enough to claim copyright infringement. Additionally, he weakens his claim by waiting three years to make his case, and it looks like he’s pulling this out to draw the most attention possible rather than having a legitimate grievance.
Nevertheless, we can’t completely dismiss his case just because we’re a fan of Whedon and Goddard, and I’ll be interested to see how this all shakes out.