Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods isn’t typical scare fare



By Steve Newton

When you ask Drew Goddard to name the best horror flicks he’s seen in the past 10 years and he comes up with High Tension and The Descent, it’s obvious he knows his stuff. Both films were distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment, a company that was formed right here in Vancouver and that will also release Goddard’s locally lensed The Cabin in the Woods on Friday (April 13).

“They put out so many of the films that I love,” Goddard explains on the phone from Toronto, “that it’s like there’s a shorthand that has developed between us. There’s definitely been a feeling of kismet about this movie, and it’s nice to see it all come together.”

As well as directing The Cabin (his feature debut), Goddard cowrote the screenplay with Joss Whedon, who gave him his start in the biz as a writer on TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Before that, Goddard developed a trembling love of horror from watching the brutal exploits of Jason Voorhees and his slasher ilk.

“I was very much a child of the ’80s,” he relates, “but I was a very scared child, so I remember watching a lot of Friday the 13ths as a young kid and being traumatized by them. Then I sorta stumbled into The Thing and Evil Dead, and that’s when I really started to get excited about these films as a genre. It just sort of blossomed from there.”

Goddard’s movie begins with a group of young adults heading off to party at a cabin in the woods, so it initially resembles your typical body-count flick. But those preconceptions get gleefully ripped away pretty fast.

“It was important to us to give the audience something they had never seen before,” he explains. “I love it in movies where I don’t know where it’s going: like I genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next. We definitely set out to do that with Cabin and keep doing that through the course of the movie.”

Although Cabin boasts such youthful talent as Thor star Chris Hemsworth, it’s the casting of film veterans Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as complete and utter pricks that really pays off.

“We wrote the parts for them,” Goddard reveals, “and we were just thrilled when they said yes. It definitely served notice to everyone that, ‘Oh, this is not your average horror film.’ ”

The effectiveness of Jenkins and Whitford’s interaction isn’t lost on Goddard, who—when asked to pinpoint his fave scene in the film—picks one in which their ultimate dickheadedness comes right to the fore—along with REO Speedwagon’s iconic ’80s hit “Roll With the Changes”.

“I really got the chance to do so many different things in this film,” he says, “but I will say that there’s a cocktail party that happens in the course of this movie that is sort of the culmination of everything I’m trying to say with Cabin in the Woods. It all happens in one scene, so I’ll leave it at that.”

After its world premiere in March at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, the buzz about The Cabin started spreading like goo from a gaping wound. The response has been “very humbling”, according to Goddard, who notes that his film got a standing ovation at a recent screening in Toronto.

“We wanted to make the type of horror film where everyone’s laughing as much as they’re screaming,” he says, “so it’s fun to see that happen. The thing that’s been incredibly gratifying for me is I keep hearing people say: ‘You know, I don’t even like horror movies but I loved this.’ ”

It helps if you like horror movies, though. And Vancouverites who’ve been waiting for their city to produce a decent one—after franchised dreck like Halloween: Resurrection and Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan—can finally stand proud.

“There’s a nice foreboding nature to the woods in Vancouver that serves the horror film well,” Goddard points out, “and the town itself is wonderful. I miss it every day—except for the fact that we happened to be shooting when the Canucks were in the playoffs and doing very well, and I couldn’t get my crew to work. They would just look at me and say, ‘Sorry, sir, it’s the Canucks; we have to watch the game.’ ”

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