One of this year's best movies so far, The Cabin in the Woods (which hits DVD and Blu-ray today) is exactly the kind of movie that passionate genre enthusiasts start home video collections for in the first place.
Directed by Drew Goddard, who also co-wrote the screenplay with The Avengers writer-director Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods is a meta-scare flick that both bests Scream in the wink-wink department and goes out of its way to give horror heads the most bang for their buck. For those who have yet to see the film, complete spoilers shall be avoided here, but let's put it this way: Within the film's final 15 minutes, damn near every single monster imaginable—including ghosts, witches, masked serial killers, a werewolf, a killer clown, and, yes, a pissed-off unicorn—all make memorable cameos. "Rewind" buttons are about to get some serious workouts.
At the center of it all is actress Kristen Connolly, who plays Dana, the film's brave punching bag of a heroine. Whether she's evading zombies or getting pounded into a wooden dock, Connolly's character withstands the punishment while establishing herself as one of horror's most strongest female protagonists in years. It's quite the change-up for Connolly, whose previous on-camera experience consisted solely of work on the soap operas As the World Turns and Guiding Light.
Thanks to her breakout role in Cabin, the rising starlet will soon be back with a couple of very interesting projects: director Barry Levinson's (Good Morning, Vietnam; Rain Man) found-footage horror flick The Bay, and the in-production Netflix original property House of Cards, a politically-minded drama series created and directed by David Fincher.
Before she officially becomes a household name, though, Connolly took some time out of filming House of Cards to chat with Complex about The Cabin in the Woods for its DVD/Blu-ray release.
Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
It must feel good to talk about The Cabin in the Woods and actually be able to, you know, talk about it.
I know! It's such a relief. When we doing all of the press before the movie came out, people would be like, "So tell us about the movie," and we'd all be like, "Well, it's really good! That's about all I can tell you." [Laughs.] So it's nice to finally be able to talk about it, though.
What's really interesting about that is that you had a couple years between when you finished shooting the movie and when it finally opened in theaters, so that was two years' worth of saying nothing at all about such an exciting project. Was that difficult to handle?
Yeah, especially because I was gone for three months. I live in New York, so I had a little going-away party with all of my friends, left to shoot it, and then I went back to New York. My friends kept saying, "Tell us about the movie," and all I could say was, "I can't, but it will be out next year." And then it was like, "It will be out a year from then." [Laughs.] And then, "I don't know when it will be out, but I still can't tell you anything!" It was kind of crazy.
Even crazier than that was your audition, in which Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard had you pretend that you were being chased by a pterodactyl, a scene that was never in the movie to begin with. Did that let you know The Cabin in the Woods was going to be very unique experience?
Well, I knew that it wasn't going to be your typical horror movie as soon as I saw that Joss and Drew were attached to it. But it's hard to know what something is until you read a script, and in this case, I didn't have anything to read except for these crazy scenes. Once we all got the job and compared what our scenes had been, they were all insane, and we all agreed that Joss and Drew wrote those scenes just to fuck with us. [Laughs.]
They were ridiculous; there was one with a hot tub attacking Anna [Hutchison], and my scene was with a pterodactyl. And then there was some kind of homoerotic locker room scene, I think, with Holden [Jesse's character] and Curt [Chris Hemsworth's character]. I don't know what they were looking for exactly with that. [Laughs.]
After that audition, did it take much longer to land the role?
No, it was like immediately after. I went on tape at my agent's office, and about a week later, I think, I got a call saying that Joss and Drew wanted to meet with me in LA and read with them in the room. I got there in the morning, read a couple of scenes by myself, and then Fran [Kranz] showed up and we read the final scene of the movie together. Joss handed it to me and said, "This is actually in the movie, so don't tell anyone about it." [Laughs.]
We read together and it was really fun, and that was the crazy thing about it. A lot of auditions are not fun; they're just a necessary evil, and, if you're lucky, you have a few moments that are fun. This was real extraordinary. I didn't want to leave the room; I was like, "Let's just stay here and play all day. Let's talk about it and work on it some more." When I left, I remember thinking, Even if I don't get this job, that was a really great experience, and it was really great to meet those guys and have such a positive audience experience. Then, I went and had lunch with one of my girlfriends and went to the airport, and on my way to the airport I got a phone call from my agent saying I got the job. So that was a good flight home. "Yes, I think I can have a glass of champagne on this flight." [Laughs.]
When you see the names Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard attached to a project, there's a certain amount of confidence that comes along with it. But, still, you weren't able to read a script before signing on to make the movie. Was there any part of you that thought, What if this script ends up being bad? Or, what if this too crazy for me?
I wasn't worried that it wasn't going to be any good, because I knew who Joss was and I knew who Joss was; I knew it wasn't going to be garbage, even just from reading the scene with the pterodactyl. The audition scenes are all crazy, yes, but they're also really well-written. So I wasn't worried about the script's quality at all. I was more excited than anything else. I kept saying to myself, "I can't wait to see what this thing actually is." If anything, I was like, "I hope I'm up for it. I hope it's something I can actually handle." But they seemed to think I could handle it, so that gave me confidence.
It was really hard, though. Cabin was certainly the hardest thing I've ever done. It was mostly the physical aspects of it, and staying in that place of fear for such long periods of times—I hadn't really thought about that side of it before we started shooting. I know Fran had a similar experience, where both of us were like, "Wow, this is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be." The physical stuff was really demanding; that dock site, for instance, we spent two days there. So for two days I was just getting pummeled and soaking wet. The other thing I didn't think about at all was, if you go in the water on, say, page 60 of a script, and it's all in real-time, basically, you're going to be soaking wet for half of the movie, which, in shooting terms, lasts about a month. [Laughs.] It's kind of a miracle that I never got sick because I was literally dripping wet day after day after day.
It's funny, I've gotten other jobs since where they'll say, "OK, so we'll be sitting around in a restaurant, talking," and I'll say, "Really? We just talk? That's it?"
In other words, no zombies throwing you around on a deck and beating you up.
Exactly. "Wait, so I'm not throwing up blood in this scene?" [Laughs.]