How do you write about a movie when revealing elements of the story will spoil the whole thing? That's absolutely the case with The Cabin in the Woods---the less you know about it going in the better, especially for horror fans who've seen a lot of its antecedents. Drew Goddard gets this. "I admire the challenge we've saddled you with," he says, chuckling.
The positively sanguine Goddard, co-writer/director of the movie, is thrilled to be back in Canada, the country where he made his first feature film. That he shot it in Vancouver, thousands of kilometres away from Toronto---where he's on the phone---is neither here nor there.
His sense of fun is palpably evident in his filmmaking, which is saying something, given the volume of gore on display. This isn't just any horror movie, though---we can say that much--- it's a project dreamed up by Goddard and co-writer/producer Joss Whedon, with whom he worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The humour and self-awareness of that show are very much a part of this new project.
"We made this movie because we love horror films," says Goddard. "We wanted to make a fun horror film, where you're screaming as much as laughing. There really is no experience like it in cinema...you're really close to your emotions at a horror film. We set out to make the ultimate version of that. We wanted to give people a good time."
The director will agree it's OK to let on this too: if Cabin is about anything, it's the genre of horror itself.
"We wanted to tip our hats to those who went before, but also to create our own new thing," he says. "We didn't want to create a mash-up that felt like a homework assignment."
They haven't. Fans of his and Whedon's work on Buffy will have plenty to enjoy here, through an R-rated prism. "No matter how hard we try to be someone else, Joss and I are still us," he says.
As a child of the 1980s, Goddard says his film stands on the shoulders of work by John Carpenter and Sam Raimi. "If I had to pick one of each, I'd go with Evil Dead and The Thing. Or Halloween. Boy, Carpenter is good." He names The Descent, High Tension and The Strangers as recent favourites.
Goddard, a huge admirer of Whedon's work before he worked with him, suffered along with him when their film came up against some of the same obstacles that have befallen other Whedon projects: studio issues. In this case, the picture was shot in 2009 and the parent studio MGM went into bankruptcy protection shortly after, delaying its release by years.
"The Hobbit and James Bond, all that stuff got delayed also," says Goddard. "It was frustrating, but you try to keep perspective. We just had to untangle it from some red tape. But now we're with a studio"---Vancouver-based Lionsgate--- "that loves us and gets what we're trying to do." Another plus is the Cabin ensemble includes Chris Hemsworth, one of the stars of Whedon's Avengers movie, so that increases the visibility for The Cabin in the Woods. "We didn't have Thor in our movie when we shot it," Goddard says with a laugh. "There's definitely the sense of everything happening for a reason. This maybe was the best thing that could have happened."