Drew Goddard, debutant director of The Cabin in the Woods, has a difficult task: to talk about and promote a movie that is best experienced without knowing anything specific about it. A loving celebration of the fright genre, and already one of the best horror-comedies of all time, Goddard's flick, which he developed and co-wrote with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel collaborator Joss Whedon, features an awesome central twist (again, one of the best ever) that nobody should spoil without subsequently getting a knuckle sandwich to snack on.
The basic premise is this: Five attractive archetypal teenagers (Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison, and Fran Kranz) go to a cabin in the woods. Then a bunch of bonkers, unexpected shit happens.
Complex recently spoke to Goddard about how to successfully keep movie secrets, Cabin's ridiculous casting process, and what separates good horror movies from bad ones.
Interview by Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash)
First you write Cloverfield, the top secret monster attacks flick, now you co-write and direct The Cabin in the Woods. What is it with you and movies that you’re not supposed to talk about?
[Laughs.] I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about them, it’s just that I don’t want to spoil the surprise in these movies. Isn’t that true of all movies? As a viewer, I never want any movie ruined for me, no matter what the genre is. It’s tricky to deal with.
It’s not easy to keep twists in movies secret these days. Forget about the Internet, oftentimes marketing teams sabotage the moviegoing experience because they don't know how else to sell a project. Simon Pegg, for instance, expressed frustration with his movie Paul because he and Nick Frost had intended it to look like a simple buddy road trip comedy, and for Seth Rogen's alien character to come out of nowhere, but the suits sold it entirely on the strength of the wisecracking extraterrestrial. You have been surprisingly successful at keeping things quiet with Cabin. What is your secret?
The truth: Work with a great marketing department. That’s really the secret, and Lionsgate understands what we are trying to do and I think they are really respectful of it. It’s hard because I sympathize with the problem. You want to protect the film as best you can but you also want to tell the audience that it is worth their time and that it’s not the same old horror movie. So it’s just trying to find that balance I suppose.
To that end, how closely did you work with Lionsgate on the trailers and what they would reveal?
We have a really healthy relationship where we watch everything and we give our comments and they are respectful of our thoughts and we are respectful of their position. So it’s a very easy process. It’s a very easy collaboration.
One of the ways that you kept things secret was by having your young cast audition using ridiculous scenes that were never going to be in the film. What was the genesis of that?
Joss and I just wanted to keep this as quiet as we could for as long as we could, so we wrote some scenes that had nothing to do with the movie that would show an actor’s range, give them as much to play with as we could in an audition. There were absurd scenes but they were fun, and it made it easier to see who would get it and who would not.
There was a molesting hot tub. People were in a hot tub and then something was in there getting a little fresh with them...
I know Kristin Connolly did a scene where a pterodactyl was chasing her, and Jesse Williams talked about doing some kind of homoerotic locker room scene.
[Laughs.] Yeah, that sounds right.
Were there any other funny ones?
There was a molesting hot tub. People were in a hot tub and then something was in there getting a little fresh with them…
The hot tub was molesting them?
[Laughs.] Yeah. That was the most absurd one. Some of them were pretty straightforward, scenes where just two people talking, but the pterodactyl and the hot tub definitely stand out.
What were the best reactions that you got from actors?
When you are dealing with something that’s crazy you still want actors to play characters and find the reality of the situation no matter how absurd the situation is. You want to find something relatable within the scene, and with the five actors that we found for these roles they all found the humanity within the absurd.