THE CABIN In The Woods directed by Drew Goddard, written by Joss Whedon and Goddard, with Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins. An Alliance Films release. 95 minutes. Opens Friday (April 13). For venues and times, see Movies.
Drew Goddard enjoys playing with mythology.
He made his name writing key episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel for Joss Whedon, and Alias and Lost for J.J. Abrams, folding crucial information about the worlds of those shows into convincing emotional beats.
The friendships he forged led to feature work: Abrams produced his first feature script, the ingenious found-footage monster movie Cloverfield, and Whedon co-wrote and produced his new film, the delirious genre mashup The Cabin In The Woods, about which I will say nothing further so as not to spoil the fun. But it's definitely something special, and Goddard knows how lucky he is to have made it the way he and Whedon wanted.
"I feel like this is a movie that would have been destroyed by the studio system," says the lanky auteur, stretching back on the couch in a suite at the Soho Metropolitan. "We'd never have gotten it through. It gave us such freedom, because we knew it didn't matter. ‘Let's just write the best version we can write. Let's just do the thing that's going to entertain us the most, and then go from there.' And I think the movie has that spirit of ‘Oh, why not? Let's go for it!'"
He's absolutely right. The Cabin In The Woods goes for broke in the best possible way, celebrating and subverting a certain set of horror tropes in a manner sure to delight genre fans who grew up on said tropes - myself included. And even then, Goddard acknowledges, it burrows pretty deep.
"The only person who gets everything in this movie is me," he laughs. "And maybe Joss. But I put some stuff in there I don't think even he gets. If you've never seen a horror movie in your life, I think you're still gonna have fun with this movie. And that was my goal."
The trick, he says, was making sure that everything in the script was rooted in something believable.
"When in doubt, find the emotional core," he says. "Those were the lessons that Joss drummed into me as a young writer on Buffy, [and] I've carried that with me ever since. If you can make these characters feel real, and relate to them and empathize with them, the audience will go with you to the most ridiculous places. They will. But if it's not real, if you don't buy what they're doing or thinking, that's when viewers will turn on you and start worrying about the specifics."
There is one thing he'd like to tell people about The Cabin In The Woods: don't expect a traumatic experience like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As you'll see in the first two minutes, it's more playful than that.
"I was definitely going for thrilling more than nightmares," he says. "I love the horrific horror films, but in this case I really wanted to make a fun horror film, one where you're laughing as much as you're screaming. That was the goal here."