Whedon’s great glass elevator: space, liminality and intertext in The Cabin in the Woods

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This paper,published in the January 2014 edition of Slayage: The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association [36], explores Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s 2012 meta-horror film The Cabin in the Woods in terms of conceptions of space and intertextuality. The film has been consciously positioned by its authors as a critical evaluation with a distinct purpose; more than passive commentary or criticism, Whedon maintains that it is an attempt to “revitalize the horror movie genre” which has suffered a “devolution . . . into torture porn and into a long series of sadistic comeuppances” (Utichi n.pag). Congruent to this, The Cabin in the Woods not only provides points of reference for a myriad of supernaturally based horror movies, but in the process attempts an evisceration (in both diegetic and metaphorical terms) of said cinematic universes. In this regard, theoretical approaches of Foucault and Kristeva are used to conceptualise how the liminal spaces of the film function to explicate representations of horror via Whedon’s “signature intertextuality” (Lavery & Burkhead ix), which serve to reveal “layers of meaning or relationships to a large number of fragmentary possible worlds ... that are juxtaposed or superimposed upon each other and contain undesirable bodies” (Genocchio 1995). It is hence shown that, when read in spatial terms, the intertexts within The Cabin in the Woods become “monstrous hybrids that resist containment”, which literally make the text a “living hell on earth” (Kristeva Desire 66). Ultimately, by conceptualizing the processes that inform Whedon and Goddard’s critique, this reading informs as to whether The Cabin in the Woods succeeds in its stated ambitions of the reinvention and re-invigoration of the horror genre.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages16
JournalSlayage: The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2014


  • Joss Whedon
  • horror
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • poststructuralism
  • Foucault
  • Kristeva
  • intertextuality
  • space
  • liminality


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