The Cabin in the Woods is shuffling nearer and nearer to its long-overdue release. The film, directed and co-written by Cloverfield’s Drew Goddard as well as co-written by The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, is both a loving tribute to the horror genre and its most brilliant deconstruction. And it's only a bonus that the film comes courtesy of Goddard and Whedon, television royalty responsible for Buffy, Firefly, Lost, and Angel. Oh yeah, and not to mention Whedon's The Avengers, arguably the most highly anticipated film of 2012.
The Cabin in the Woods played to rave reviews and thunderously appreciative crowds during SxSW (read our own spoiler-free reactions for proof) and at a roundtable at the festival, Whedon dished on his inspirations, working with Drew, and how he brought his unique style to the world of horror:
On Whedon's reputation for killing characters and whether or not he had wanted to do a horror film for a long time:
Whedon: We like killing characters and I think we’re ready to step it up and kill actual people. [Laughs] I do not love to kill people. I love the people, and by that I mean the people that we write. I don’t love actual people. I don’t love drifters. Part of this movie was actually about the idea that people are not expendable. As a culture, for our own entertainment, we tend to assume that they are. And although I absolutely love horror movies, and always have, but I love them most when I really care about the people who are in dire trouble. With the exception of Alien… I was very frightened by that movie because they didn’t care about each other. I never believed they were going to ban together and fight back. I thought that they would sell each other down the river in a heartbeat. That actually scared me more than the other stuff.
On the influence of horror comedy vets like Joe Dante (Gremlins):
Whedon: I think Joe Dante did have a great flair for writing absurdity, and just enough. Occasionally it would tip over, and if it does you’re going to lose people a little bit. But there’s a sort of absurd integrity to this that has a little bit of that Dante flavor. I had not thought about until now, but it’s definitely in there.
On whether the idea began with the cabin itself:
Whedon: It was always going to be the cabin because that was iconic to us; not just because of Evil Dead, but not NOT because of Evil Dead.
On the film’s focus on female empowerment and Whedon’s inclination to create strong female characters:
Whedon: I really don’t get that whole female empowerment thing; those femi-Nazis as I call them. [Laughs] It was important for the characters to have integrity and we just sort of left it at that. This is not a movie about gender. I’ve seen the movie several times and, oddly enough, there is no adolescent girl with superpowers in it, which was weird for me. It is not a text about that. We just wanted to make sure that our characters were human beings with integrity across the board.
On the movie’s lengthy delay in the wake of MGM’s bankruptcy:
Whedon: For me, the advantage is simply that you’re not busy trying to dial in the last bits. The pain of childbirth is somewhat forgotten and it just feels like a big gift.
On what inspired Cabin’s story and how long it gestated in Whedon and Goddard’s brains:
Whedon: The story itself really just sort of popped out. I was like one of those women who don’t know that their pregnant until the baby arrives. It’s just so clearly the kind of thing we love: true horror with a cold eye toward what it’s about. Then once the idea came, it was years before we actually sat down and did it. But that was [what] made it so easy to do when we finally did. We bandied back and forth — "You know what would be hilarious… ", "You know what would be fun… ", "Oh, I wish we could… " This is an entire movie of "I wish we could." It’s two raging ids enjoying themselves for 90 minutes.
On the specificity of Whedon’s dialogue and how he applies that sensibility to different genres:
Whedon: I talk, other people like to talk. I talk. Talking is normals [sic]. It’s a blessing and a curse to have your style recognized. Part of the great thing about running a TV show is that you get a bunch of people together who both echo it and influence it. Drew and I, when we write, we speak each other’s language. It’s the same voice. Ultimately, I don’t want people to hear my voice. I want them to go, “oh, what’s going to happen to Marty?” I don’t want the distance that that brings. But… I look in the mirror every morning and say, “God damn, I’m still not the Coen Brothers!”
On the status of The Avengers:
Whedon: We are picture-locked. We’re just doing sound mix and finishing effects. In about a month I will push it away from me and… die of old age.
On whether or not Dr. Horrible 2 was still in the works:
Whedon: That’s the plan. We plan to be working on it this summer.