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Joss Whedon is exhausted from his work on Avengers: Age of Ultron. The last thing he needs right now is to get hit with a massive lawsuit for one of his past films. Three years after The Cabin in the Woods hit theaters, Whedon and the film’s distributor, Lionsgate, have been served with $10 million lawsuit for infringing on intellectual property.
Peter Gallagher (not to be confused with the actor) is the author of a book called The Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines. According to The Wrap, the suit he filed with the U.S. district court claims The Cabin in the Woods is “virtually identical” in a number of ways, including “plots, stories, characters, sequence of events, themes, dialogue and incidents.”
Whedon co-wrote the script for the film with director Drew Goddard, telling the story of a group of teens who travel to a cabin in the woods, only to discover that they’re part of an elaborate, horrific monster-based government program. Meanwhile, Gallagher states his book features the same structure, citing the five characters between the ages of 17 and 22, the names of the two girls (Julie and Dura), the cabin with the murderous previous owners, and outside forces manipulating the the kids for a “real-life horror show.”
The film starred Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams and Fran Kranz as the group of friends. Critics praised The Cabin in the Woods for its clever spin on the horror genre and presenting cliched tropes in new and interesting ways. In addition, the big reveal, involving a prison of monsters (that werewolf, especially), Sigourney Weaver and bloodthirsty gods of chaos, proved to be worth the wait.
According to the author’s note in digital copies of The Little White Trip, which Gallagher released for free as an e-book, he wrote the book in 2005, published it in 2006 and registered the title with the Writers Guild of America in 2007. Afterwards, he began selling “thousands of copies” on the streets, including the Venice Beach Boardwalk, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Santa Monica in California. Gallagher claims in the lawsuit that he sold 7,500 copies over the course of two publishing runs.
Neither Lionsgate nor reps for Joss Whedon have responded to the suit, which also names Drew Goddard. This development comes just a couple weeks before Whedon’s highly anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters on May 1. We'll have to see how this all plays out, though it's worth noting the timing of the lawsuit and the fact that it took Gallagher three years to formally file. Sorry, Whedon, but it looks like you won't be retiring from the Marvel universe quietly.