Movie novelizations can be a hit-or-miss proposition. They can be easy to dismiss as a quick cash grab, another piece of merchandise bearing the title of the latest summer blockbuster, something to entice the fans along with all of the toys and t-shirts and candy and fast food soda cups that have a popular logo plastered on them.
That's not always the case, though. There are plenty of respected genre authors who tackle tie-in product with the same care and creativity they pour into their own original works. Tim Lebbon is just such an author, an accomplished horror and dark fantasy writer who's now been tapped twice to novelize a popular movie. His first was 30 Days of Night, the 2007 film based on the popular comic series. That one became a New York Times Bestseller and earned Lebbon a Scribe Award (given by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers) in 2008. This time he was tasked with the job of turning The Cabin in the Woods into a compelling novel, and, just as before, he's proven to be up to the task.
Depending on the draft of the screenplay the writer is given to work with, novelizations often include scenes or whole subplots that didn't make it into the final film. It's one of the reasons novelizations are worth seeking out, the equivalent of deleted scenes or a "director's cut" version of a film on Blu-ray. I read Lebbon's version of Cabin the week after I saw the film, and as far as I can tell there's not an abundance of extra material in the book. Much of the dialogue appears on the page exactly as it was spoken in the film. So, then, why am I recommending the book?
I'm recommending the book because Lebbon is a strong writer, and in his hands The Cabin in the Woods is fun, satisfying read whether you've seen the film or not. While there are not a lot of new insights into the events of the film to be found, Lebbon does take us inside the head of the characters a bit more – particularly Marty, the pothead "Fool" of the film whose point of view is our gateway into the events of the story. The filmmakers took great pains to show us how Marty was the only "victim" with any awareness (addled as it may have been) that something about their circumstances was not quite right, and Lebbon uses his narrative to expand upon that feeling of unease and uncertainty.
Lebbon is also skilled at writing action scenes with some real heft to them, and when it comes time to spill a little blood he's not afraid to get in it up to his elbows. His descriptions of the "Zombie Redneck Torture Family" are suitably nightmarish, and you can almost see him smile as he wades into the chaotic climax.
Back when 30 Days of Night came out, I hoped that its success would lead others to Lebbon's original work. Same goes for Cabin. This is really a great opportunity to sample the author's work, especially if you enjoyed the movie – you're getting a story you know you're going to like, and you'll get a chance to see Lebbon's skill on display. For both of these reasons, the novelization of The Cabin in the Woods is well worth your time.
- - -
The Cabin in the Woods by Tim Lebbon is available now from Titan Books.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.