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Each time a victim bites the dust in The Cabin in the Woods, Steve Hadley (one of the senior technicians) uncovers a handle and pulls it:

covered handles
uncovered handle
pulling handle down

This triggers a small hammer to break an outlet below the observation room. A red liquid (presumably blood) runs out and onto the stone tablets.

liquid pouring out dropping onto tablets

However, how is this related to the actual sacrifice as they couldn't possibly have gotten the blood of the victim in there. Either this is human blood or animal blood (or something completely different) but why is this needed? And if it is, what is the significance of the actual deaths, then?

Obviously the demons have no issue with the handle being triggered before the actual victim is dead, as we see when Steve pulls Marty's handle.

So, what is the role of this?

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    I wouldn't say they have no issue to the handles being pulled early. The room began to shake when Hadley pulled Marty's handle early.
    – Dracs
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 16:58
  • I would say it's Symbolic. The liquid represents the blood of the sacrifice. Best bet is the filmmakers just added it in for dramatic effect.
    – Chris S
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 12:53
  • @ChrisS - I thought the monsters took the victims to a location (open grave etc..) and the handle activated a blood-draining mechanism - the blood is collected and poured into the stone tablets.
    – SteB
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 22:11
  • @SteB: No. It is definitely not the actual blood of the victims. For one thing, one of the victims survived after the point where his handle was pulled.
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 22:24
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    @bitmask - wasn't that Marty who killed a monster in his own grave (so it could have been the monster's blood, hence the shaking)?
    – SteB
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 22:29

3 Answers 3

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The script describes these handles as "ornate brass levers". These release the blood sacrifices that are being offered to the 'old one' in order to placate him.

Based on a Q&A with the film's director, We can confirm that they're releasing human blood

"Yes. Sacrificial human blood"

but there's no indication where this blood came from originally. Given the extreme level of access the staff have had to the lives of their victims (as evidenced by their ability to compare Jules' blood-work to earlier levels) there's at least a possibility that this is the blood of the victims, harvested for the purpose.

Sitterson : This [the blood] we offer in humility and fear, for the blessed peace of your eternal slumber, as it ever was

Presumably in olden times this would have been accomplished by sacrificing their victims directly over the altar, something that's harder to accomplish with the present set-up, with the risk of their blood being destroyed or impossible to extract.


With regard to your second point, the ground shakes violently when the Fool's handle is triggered prematurely. It seems that the gods do have an issue with being offered the blood of a sacrifice who hasn't suffered and died appropriately.

CLOSE ON A LEVER as a hand pulls it down -- CH-CHUNK- -

...Suddenly the rumbling fills the room, which starts to shake with what feels like a decent-sized earthquake...

...Hadley, Sitterson and Truman all pause to look around as they too are shaking


From a production perspective, the obvious metaphorical connotations of the "people behind the scenes pulling levers" shouldn't be too hard to work out.

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  • Wow - just noticed this question's a year old. This is definitely the answer, though. For all we know, they faked a blood drive to get blood from each victim a month before. Long story short, it's basically a fancy way of putting a victim on each stone slab and killing them. The details of the ritual - like why exactly the Sacrifices must choose their own fate - are never explained.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 17:33
  • @Omegacron - It's become part of the ritual. They have to jump through a bunch of hoops to appease the gods, not just the archetypes but also the choosing, the sex, the suffering, etc
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 17:38
  • I still want a sequel showing what happens after the nice twist at the end. I envision something like Pacific Rim, but with Old Gods. I mean, I know that would defeat the purpose but man, what a ride it would be.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 17:47
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I imagine that since the Facility employees were able to manipulate the sacrifices before they got to the cabin, they would be able to get blood samples from each of them. This way, when each sacrifice dies, the blood doesn't need to be collected at a certain location; simply use the pre-collected blood on the altar.

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    Huh, that is the sanest speculation so far. It would make a lot of sense, if it could be substantiated (e.g. from the script).
    – bitmask
    Commented May 11, 2013 at 16:25
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    I dunno...that's a LOT of blood. Like, I don't think you could survive losing that much all at once.
    – Jeff
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 14:19
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    @Jeff who said it had to be all at once? Plus, I recall it looking like only a pint or so in the film. Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 14:46
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I think it's just most likely mere symbolism. Gods like to be worshipped, and blood sacrifice is traditional. Flipping the handles is a symbolic gesture that pleases the gods by its performance because it's ritual. Compare a child bringing picked flower to their mother. Their mother has no particular need for flowers, and the actual flowers picked (so long as they're not something noxious and/or crawling in bugs) doesn't really matter. It's the symbolism that brings a glow to their heart.

It could also be random noise. The dialog in the movie suggests that there has been trial and error in finding the best way to propitiate the gods. One of the principles of operant conditioning is that people see patterns, even if there are none. You wear your argyle socks the day your football team wins the game. You don't dare not wear them the next time because it might make them lose. It's silly, but that's human nature.

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