The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods

Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Dana (Kristen Connolly) in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. Photo credit: Diyah Pera.

The Cabin in the Woods

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The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

Opened: 04/13/2012 Wide

Wide04/13/2012
Arclight/Holly...04/13/2012 - 06/07/201256 days
AMC Empire 2504/13/2012 - 06/07/201256 days
Georgetown 1404/13/2012 - 05/24/201242 days
AMC Deer Valley04/13/2012 - 05/17/201235 days
AMC Loews Meth...04/13/2012 - 05/10/201228 days
Showcase Cinem...04/13/2012 - 05/10/201228 days
Columbia Park ...04/13/2012 - 05/03/201221 days
DVD09/18/2012

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Horror

Rated: R for for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity.

Synopsis

Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen.

If you think you know this story, think again. From fan favorites Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard comes THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, a mind blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.

Produced by Whedon and directed by Goddard from a script by both, the film stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford.

About the Production

Sprung from the fertile imaginations of cult filmmakers Joss Whedon ("Buffy The Vampire Slayer," "Dollhouse," the upcoming The Avengers) and Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," "Angel," "Lost"), Lionsgate's THE CABIN IN THE WOODS begins like any generic horror film might: a rambunctious group of five college friends steal away for a weekend of debauchery in an isolated country cabin, only to be attacked by horrific supernatural creatures in a night of endless terror and bloodshed. Sound familiar? Just wait. As the teens begin to exhibit standard horror movie behavior, a group of technicians in a control room are scrutinizing, and sometimes even controlling, every move the terrified kids make. The story behind their involvement is just the tip of the iceberg of a fantastical, I-can't-believe-this-is-happening odyssey that explodes the conventions of the horror genre in a giddy sugar rush of bloody mayhem, wild imagination and sly humor.

Explains Goddard, "On one level, CABIN functions as your classic horror film. It's the sort of movie where you grab your popcorn and hold your date tight while you watch five teenagers head to the woods and encounter terrible things. But it's also our version of that type of movie. Which means things get a lot more insane than you might expect."

CABIN actor Chris Hemsworth, known to most audiences as the titular hero in last summer's hit, Thor, remembers the first time he read Goddard's and Whedon's script. "At first I thought, Oh, this is a regular horror movie. I don't get it. And then it just continued to unfold and open up and blow me away every page. It just got crazier and crazier and crazier until -- well, until never. It just doesn't stop. It leads you down a path that seems recognizable, and slowly it completely subverts everything you know."

Goddard and Whedon have crafted a love letter to the horror genre that pays homage to fright classics ranging from Sam Raimi's Evil Dead to Dario Argento's Suspiria. But while it clearly respects its predecessors, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS also questions the very tropes it's re-enacting. "I love horror," explains Whedon. "But the plots are becoming more and more predictable. The killings are more and more disgusting. The kids are becoming more and more expendable. And more love is put into the instruments of torture and no love at all is put into the dialogue polish. The ritual of it is getting cheapened."

The first hint that this is not your average horror movie comes with the casting of veteran actors Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, who play control room bosses Hadley and Sitterson. The two men, using a range of influential technology, force the five friends to embody horror stereotypes. While the kids might start out as more than most contemporary horror victims, they become increasingly powerless to resist Sitterson's and Hadley's ideas of how they should behave. "The control room bosses are a stand-in for us, the viewer," explains Whedon. "But they also represent everything that we're up against as storytellers: the need to hurt kids more and more on screen, to make them behave foolishly, to make the death of them the points as opposed to the suspense leading up to it."

"I think the danger with horror films is that they often treat the audience as idiots," suggests Hemsworth. "This film respects the audience by questioning our desire for horror films to begin with."

Whedon admits he's fascinated by this question. Why do we love horror movies so much? "There's some part of us, some deep, dark, primitive part of us that wants to sacrifice these people onscreen. I wanted to make a movie that explained why. And so it's been a strange experience because on the one hand, we do straight up horror. We definitely love the genre and the tropes of the genre but at the same time we have a lot of questions about why and where it's going."

Goddard adds, "The horror movie is merely the jumping-off point for the inherent questions about humanity that the genre suggests. Why, as a people, do we feel the need to marginalize, objectify, and destroy youth? And this is not specific to the genre, or movies in general, or our present-day culture. We've been doing this to youth since we first began as a people. And this question -- the question of why -- is very much at the heart of CABIN."

Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon first met when Goddard was hired as a writer on Whedon's seminal television hit, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." A fruitful creative partnership -- and a strong friendship -- formed, and the two filmmakers have worked together consistently ever since. Along the way, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was born.

"Joss came up with the initial idea -- we were looking for something to write together, and he had this concept kicking around in his head. And as soon as I heard the words 'cabin movie,' I said, 'I'm in." The two worked together to develop the idea, and wrote the script quickly while on hiatus from their various day jobs.

Once the script was completed, the film was greenlit by MGM Studios, thanks to the support of producer Mary Parent. But due to corporate changes, the studio was unable to continue with the film, making the way for Lionsgate to step in. "You always want your movie to find the right home," says Whedon, "and there's no question that Lionsgate is the right home for CABIN. So many of the films that inspired CABIN were released by Lionsgate in the first place!"

Adds Goddard, "With some places, there's a bit of a horror disconnect, but with Lionsgate I can say something in a meeting like, 'I'm thinking it should be red, but not The Descent red, more High Tension red," and they don't look at me like I'm insane. It definitely feels like we're speaking the same language. They've been wonderful."

Goddard's and Whedon's goal was to cast the film with a mixture of established actors, new faces, and "Whedonverse" veterans, and that's exactly what casting directors Amy Britt and Anya Colloff, who had worked on both "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," set out to accomplish. But the casting process was not without its difficulties. "We ask a lot of our performers," Goddard points out. "We ask them to vacillate between broad comedy and intense emotional drama. And often, it's in the same scene -- the same sentence, even. It's very hard to find actors who can shift gears so quickly, the way we ask them to."

From the beginning, Goddard had dreamed of casting Richard Jenkins in the role of control room boss Sitterson. After sending Jenkins the script on a Friday night, the phone rang on Monday morning with Jenkins' enthusiastic commitment to the project.

"I just loved the twists. I loved the take on it. It's fearless," says the actor. "The control room is pretty mundane, you know. It's like, just the guys in the office. And then you see what they're working on and it's bizarre. It's just so great to throw those two worlds together."

Jenkins' acceptance quickly invigorated the rest of the casting process. Bradley Whitford committed soon after for the role of Hadley, which left Goddard marveling at their good fortune. "Both actors were our wildest dreams, and they were the first people in it," he says.

Recalls Whitford, "I thought at first it was a sort of grade A, Defcon 5 horror movie. But the more I thought about it, there was something very funny and smart about it. It's such a clever way to deal with this genre. You see with Hadley how the relentlessness of his job, and dealing with violence all the time, cuts him off from a real experience of it."

In order to protect the story and its secrets from being revealed in the blogosphere, the script was kept under tight wraps and the filmmakers wrote fake sides when auditioning the remaining principals, which of course became its own entertaining exercise. Remembers Whedon, "In Curt's case, it was a pterodactyl movie; in Holden and Jules' scene, about tentacles in a Jacuzzi; Marty had a monologue about something made entirely of claws. So basically, it was take the exact character that you're looking for and then put him or her in a different movie."

The search for the younger roles wasn't easy, however, as the filmmakers required actors who could play authentic, real characters as well as the stereotypes they are forced to become. The casting team was prescient enough to cast Chris Hemsworth in the role of Curt before his quick rise to movie stardom in Thor and Whedon's upcoming The Avengers. Explains Goddard, "Chris has a presence that's impossible to deny, and you could feel it the moment he walked into the room. He can inhabit that star quarterback role that's so common in these types of movies, but he has an instinctual ability to find the character's humanity without playing the stereotype, which was crucial to casting this role."

Remembers Hemsworth, "I got the part and I was speaking to my agent and he's like, 'Congratulations. This is great.' And I said, 'Yeah, has anyone read the script?' And they're like, 'Nope.' It was all on the bet of Joss' and Drew's reputation that this was going to be a good thing. And then I read the script and loved it. I think it's a real talent to be able to write an emotional, high-stakes story and weave comedy through it. They're impressive, talented guys."

Both filmmakers agreed that one young adult role -- Dana -- had to be filled before the rest of the ensemble could be cast around her. Their search was long and frustrating, yielding no viable options, until their luck took a turn with Kristen Connolly. Whedon remembers, "The moment we saw her on tape there was no doubt in my mind at all. Her audition tape was so good we could have put it in the movie."

"Dana's just a regular person who doesn't start out thinking that she's really a bad-ass," says Connolly. "What's cool about Joss is that he makes heroes out of the people who you wouldn't expect. Dana's just a regular kid whose strength comes out of her love for her friends and out of necessity."

Actor Fran Kranz, who worked on Whedon's series, "Dollhouse," impressed the filmmakers with the depth of his audition for the role of Marty. "Most actors came in to audition and it was one dimension. It was just, 'I'm the guy who smokes pot,'" remembers Goddard. "But Fran was able to find that loneliness and innocence within the part that we thought was so important to the film."

In a reversal of traditional horror movie morality, which usually stipulates that the druggie friend be an easy, unwitting victim, Marty's stoner paranoia helps him sniff out the truth behind the cabin. "He ends up seeing through the manipulation of the control room guys," says Kranz. "He senses something weird is going on."

Adds Whedon, "Marty is the one who everybody discounts. Everybody humiliates the fool and makes fun of him; he's the jester who gets kicked around. But he's the guy who senses what's going on."

In the role of Holden, whose character becomes the stiff intellectual of the group, the buff, good-looking actor Jesse Williams seems like an atypical choice, but Goddard reveals this was exactly their intention. "We wanted to play against type, to drive home the marginalization that can happen in these movies. Jesse knew how to inhabit the awkward introspection at the core of Holden, which plays in direct contrast to his matinee-idol charisma."

"When he puts on the glasses to play the nerdier version of himself," says Whedon, "Jesse completely transforms. It's some of my favorite footage from the whole film."

For his part, Williams enjoyed being cast against type. "Holden's a smart guy and he plays it safe," says the actor. "He's not a huge risk taker, and not really the alpha male kind of role. It was fun to play, especially some of the awkward moments with Dana, Kristen Connolly's character."

Rounding out the principal CABIN cast, Anna Hutchison committed enthusiastically to the "hot blonde" role of Jules, bringing depth to a character who is objectified by the control room bosses. Remembers Whedon, "Anna totally got the irony of the violence and sexual situations. Everything excited her. She'd face plant like a stuntwoman. She'd throw herself all over the place. We'd tell her not to and she'd do it anyway. And every take there was something new -- an ad-lib or a moment of spark, energy. She gives a huge amount as an actress."

When it came time to cast key secondary roles, Goddard and Whedon couldn't resist inviting some of their favorite actors from past productions to lend a hand. Tom Lenk, familiar to Whedon fans for his roles on both "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," was cast as Ronald, the control room intern. He's often referred to by Whedon as the pair's "good luck charm."

"Tom Lenk is one of the funniest actors I've ever worked with," declares Goddard. "He delights me to no end and I hope I'm lucky enough to work with him for the rest of my career."

Another Whedon veteran, Amy Acker ("Angel," "Alias," and "Dollhouse"), appears in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS as Lin, a control room technician who works alongside Sitterson and Hadley. Says Goddard, "Amy's our not-so-secret weapon. She embodies the technical expertise that's so important to our style. There's nobody better at making you laugh and breaking your heart in the same sentence."

The filmmakers also turned to past collaborators for many key below-the-line positions. In addition to casting directors Amy Britt and Anya Colloff, Goddard and Whedon turned to editor Lisa Lassek ("Angel," Serenity and "Firefly"), costume designer Shawna Trpcic ("Firefly," "Angel," "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog," and "Dollhouse") and production designer Martin Whist (Cloverfield). For his Director of Photography, Goddard set his sights on Peter Deming, who had the "perfect resume for CABIN" with films like Scream, Evil Dead 2, and Mulholland Drive to his credit. In another stroke of perfect luck, Deming turned out to be best friends with CABIN's head of production and committed to the project immediately.

Production took place from March 9th to May 29th in locations in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. Apart from an initial weather-related setback, Goddard and Whedon were able to continue the spirit of child-like wonder and fun they had conjured while writing the script. "This is not a movie where it's people sitting around in rooms talking all day," Goddard says. "Every single day there was something that the 12-year-old in you would look at with wide-eyed astonishment. We always tried to hold onto that feeling. I remember looking at the schedule a week before we started shooting and looking at every scene and going, 'That scene's going to be fun to shoot. And that scene's going to be fun. Oh, and yep, that scene'll be fun."

"A lot of things happen in this movie that aren't very pleasant, and yet this was the happiest set I've ever worked on," states Jenkins. "Actors do much better work when there's no tension. And everybody had a great time because Joss and Drew clearly love their work."

Although a first time director, Goddard's extensive experience writing for TV prepared him well for the role. He says, "In TV, the writer/producers get a lot of the power that directors have in the feature world. You really oversee things. You supervise your own edits and you're on set all the time. So directing CABIN didn't feel like this weird foreign environment." In fact, the experience, according to Goddard, was more like a dream come true. "I couldn't imagine a better opportunity than this one for my first film. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS gave me the chance to shoot multiple movies in one because we shifted gears so much. I had to pinch myself every day."

"Drew is very clear about what he's asking you to do," comments Jesse Williams, "and it's clear that he's very passionate about it. Every take matters. It's a joy to feel that, to have somebody commanding the ship. And it's been a long shoot. So it's great to keep that energy up, to keep that positivity going. I think that's a word I can't stress enough about Drew. What a positive guy."

"Drew is a true horror aficionado," adds Whedon. "He was ready to commit to it, ready to buy the most amount of blood you can purchase in Canada. He's the kind of horror director who'll spend a day watching different blood splatters to find the right one."

Whatever the challenges, Goddard and Whedon were committed to continuing their spirit of collaboration all the way through the shoot. "When we're together on set it is very much a hive mind of sorts where we are just in sync with one another," explains Goddard. "There were times when we disagreed, for sure. But passion always won. So if I felt strongly, then he would back down. And if he felt strongly, I would back down."

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS' multi-layered narrative required fully imagined, distinct designs for the film's primary settings: the cabin and the control room. "They're very different looks, almost from different movies," explains production designer Martin Whist. "So for me the range that we went through on this film was phenomenal. Each one needed to be very distinct in order to keep it fresh and keep the audience surprised."

Whist and the filmmakers created an authentic "California Gold Rush/post-Civil War" cabin after doing extensive photo research, while the control room was developed into a high-tech environment with "a NASA, Houston 1970s sort of vibe." "It was important to me that everything felt real even when we get ridiculous and over the top," says Goddard. "I wanted the visuals to show restraint and elegance to them, so that when things go surreal, the movie still feels grounded."

Costume designer Shawna Trpcic echoed the contrast between the rustic cabin and the sleek control room with specific color codes for the teenagers and the adults. "The kids are very bright and jovial," Trpcic says. "But for the control room, I actually used a picture from a 1950s nuclear war plant as a primary reference. It had all the different castes that work within the nuclear plant, from the scientists to the lab workers."

When it came to the film's numerous special effects, Goddard and Whedon tried to avoid CGI effects whenever possible. "No matter how good digital effects are, you can't beat a creature that's really there. You can't beat something that actually exists in front of you," declares Goddard. "So the rule was always, 'If we can make it, we're gonna make it.' And that guided everything that we did. It forced everyone to be more creative and I think the movie benefits from that aesthetic."

Now that the film is completed and awaiting theatrical release, Goddard and Whedon have a moment to contemplate their work before the Whedonites and legions of genre fans light up the Internet with reviews. "I'm happiest that it is so close to what we originally intended," says Goddard. "This is a movie that could so easily have been killed by the Hollywood system, and it says a lot about the strength of my producer that we never had to compromise our vision."

"THE CABIN IN THE WOODS really is what Drew and I set out to write," agrees Whedon. "Our intention was to create a two-hour experience that felt familiar to horror fans like us, but then flips it on its head, sending everyone into a fun tailspin."

And what should horror fans, or Joss Whedon fans, expect from the film? Drew Goddard smiles. "You're gonna see some things that you've never seen before in your life," he says. "And you won't believe some of the places we take you. But it'll be fun. Also bloody and angry and horrific. That too. But mostly fun."

 

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