The Cabin at the End of the World: its apocalyptic ending, explained

By Harneet Kaur — ON Oct 06, 2022
The Cabin at the End of the World

Paul Tremblay’s apocalyptic horror novel shows a small family forced with an impossible choice. Let’s see what they decide.

Spoilers ahead!

Andrew, Eric and Wen’s little family

Andrew and Eric adopted Wen from an orphanage in China. Presently, she’s soon to be 8 and they’re on a vacation in a remote red cabin in New Hampshire.

Wen is outside catching grasshoppers when suddenly a tall, huge guy comes and befriends her with stories about him, talking to Wen and getting to know her and helping her with the grasshoppers. His name is Leonard.

The start of their nightmare

Three more people come there. Dressed like Leonard, holding customized weapons. Wen gets scared and when Leonard says her family has to make a choice, she runs inside. Upon hearing Wen’s rapid frightened talk, they lock themselves in. They see the 4 strangers outside, talking about apocalypse and how they’re all chosen to make a choice to save humanity.

Even after trying, begging and threatening, the strangers don’t leave. Eventually, one of them- Redmond- breaks through the back screen door and Andrew jumps at him, hitting him constantly. The others follow soon and, in a race to get away, Eric stumbles on a weapon, hitting his head and getting a huge cut.

They both woke up tied to the chairs with Wen nestled on the floor between them, watching cartoon. The two women introduce as Sabrina and Adriane. Andrew believes he knows Redmond but can’t place it.

An explanation of the doomsday choice

Leonard explains the family that they have been chosen to make a willing sacrifice for the sake of humanity. Otherwise, oceans will rise, plague will spread, sky will fall and darkness will ensue. He says they have all been seeing visions of the end and hearing voices and somehow, surrendered to it.

Andrew refuses to believe. When Leonard says they don’t have much time, it all sounds delusional. Eric, on the other hand, has a concussion and is unable to comprehend. Leonard begs them to make a choice as they can’t for them. All explanations are inexplicable.

The first sacrifice

Since they are unable to make a choice, they kill Redmond- the beefy guy, using the weapons he made. He accepted it and is beaten to a pulp. Meanwhile, Andrew works on loosening his ropes. Eric sees a strange light, a presence which soon dissipates.

The 3 cover Redmond’s body and places it out on the deck. Leonard checks his watch and turns on the TV, where news of an earthquake and tsunami is broadcasted. Soon, another hits. They all wail that the family soon has to choose.

The next sacrifice- a hope for escape?

The next day, it’s Adriane’s turn. She tries, but it’s not enough. Soon, Andrew figures out Redmond. That’s a fake name of Jeff O’Bannon, a guy who attacked him in a bar 13 years ago. Time has passed but, he’s sure. Everyone is shaken by this and questions creep in.

Adriane is impatient. Andrew has long since loosened his ropes and wants to go to his SUV to get his hidden gun. Suddenly, Wen remembers the grasshoppers outside sobs to Eric, who somehow gets his ropes loose and holds her. Everyone huddles around him.

Andrew sees his opportunity & runs out the door, being chased by Sabrina. The SUV is slashed but is unlocked. He locks himself in and retrieves the gun. Sabrina breaks the window. Andrew shoots one out of the 5 shots aimlessly. He shoots again at her running form but misses.

The debacle inside the cabin- a horrific accident

Andrew positions the gun as he enters, Eric is protecting Wen. Adriane has knives. He warns them to drop their weapons but a slight glance back has Adriane running to attack him and he shoots her. Twice.

Leonard overpowers Andrew and tries to take his gun away. Meanwhile, Wen is helping Eric untie the rope around his chair. In a struggle, Leonard squeezes Andrew’s hands and the trigger goes off. The last of the bullet hits Wen.

Melancholy and determination

Everyone is devastated. Leonard apologies over and over. He gets tied and begs Eric to turn on the TV. Eric does. The news is of bird flu travelling fast. Andrew begs Eric to go but he can’t seem to. Sabrina comes up from the basement and questions her blind belief. She tells them both her story and promises to help them.

In a trance, she kills Leonard. She turns on the TV and planes have started to crash all over the world. Eric starts believing but Andrew is still dismissive. Even Wen’s death didn’t stop it because it wasn’t a ‘willing’ sacrifice.

The end escape from the cabin

The three leave the cabin to Redmond’s truck. The sky is turning dark. Suddenly, the rope around Sabrina opens and she digs for the key, crying and wailing. She finds it, and a gun and with her words contrasting her expressions, she shoots herself.

Eric takes the gun and contemplates sacrificing him. Andrew comes over to him and tells him that they aren’t going to do it. They are going to face whatever it is together, and not give into any evil apocalyptic plan. Not even if the world ends.

And that’s where the book ends.

In a talk with SciFiNow, Tremblay says he loved using ambiguity and uncertainty in his work. He said, ”The idea of truly believing one has no choice in what one is doing (or is about to do) is a horror, and a terrifying one at that.”