The secret’s out on The Cabin in the Woods, currently playing in theaters nationwide. But if you haven’t seen it yet, director Drew Goddard would prefer you go in cold. We talked with the 37-year-old first-time feature director about making and releasing the horror-comedy hit. He cowrote the film with producer Joss Whedon, who gave him his first writing job, for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It’s really difficult to talk about this movie without giving anything away. How do you go about it?
I talk much more about the experience of watching this movie with an audience and hearing the screams and the laughter, because it is the sort of movie where you’re laughing as much as you’re screaming. It’s the type of movie that the less you know, the better.
The film’s been on the shelf for a few years.
The studio who made it went bankrupt, and it got caught up in the financial crisis. [That] slowed a lot of movies down. It slowed down The Hobbit and it slowed down James Bond and it slowed down Red Dawn. You just keep perspective. We knew the movie was going to come out.
You previously worked with Joss Whedon as a writer on Buffy and Angel. Did you get any advice from him on directing?
He gave me a lot of advice, but I don’t remember what it was. I think the main one was “Don’t cry in front of the crew.” And he’s right—you should try not to. It really undercuts you.
One of the first delays associated with the film was due to MGM wanting to convert it to 3-D. Now it’s out not in 3-D. What were your feelings about that process?
We didn’t want to do it. The truth is, the 3-D conversation was just about the bankruptcy, but at the time, they didn’t want to talk about the bankruptcy. I don’t know that for sure; that’s just my theory. It came at a time when every movie was going to be 3-D. The studios thought, 3-D is clearly why Avatar was so successful, so let’s just slap 3-D on everything. We had to weather those conversations, which was fine. I’m not against 3-D, by the way. I just didn’t shoot this movie in 3-D.
While you were writing thescript, was there anything you thought you’d never be able toget onscreen?
Honestly, the whole movie. I’m not kidding. The whole time, “They’re never gonna let us do this.” I’m glad to be wrong about that.
There seems to be a growing class of films that try to pay tribute to a genre or style of filmmaking while also attempting to be an entry in that genre. It can be a tricky thing to manage without slipping into parody.
I think the trick is to make sure your story can stand alone if you strip out all the other references. Make sure that you’re telling a story and not just a mash-up. We felt very strongly with Cabin that this was a story. This is not a, “Hey, weren’t the ’80s great?” The thing I’m most satisfied about [with] this movie is when I hear audiences say, “I don’t like horror films, but I loved this film.” That’s the goal. I didn’t want it to feel like you had to do your homework to enjoy this movie.
The Cabin in the Woods is in theaters now.