Tom Huddleston speaks to the director of The Cabin in the Woods.
Starting out as a writer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Drew Goddard rose to prominence when he scripted the smash monster movie Cloverfield. It was only a matter of time before he turned to directing, and his debut, The Cabin in the Woods, co-written with Joss Whedon, is an astonishing work of imagination. A film about five college kids whose holiday goes wrong, it manages both to celebrate and lampoon the horror genre.
At what point did you realise The Cabin in the Woods could be something for you to direct?
Right away. Joss [Whedon] knew I wanted to direct and he had been pushing me since the Buffy days, so it felt like the right fit. Early on, he said: “I want to produce this, I want you to direct it,” so it just felt right.
When you were preparing to direct, were there films that you turned to?
Absolutely. I’m a child of the ’80s, so that was my gateway drug into horror – John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and Wes Craven movies. I also looked at Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, which is crucial to this movie. And I re-read all my Douglas Adams books. He was so fearless about the way he would merge high genre with the mundane, and social commentary with the ridiculous, which I thought was important in this movie. He was hugely influential.
At what point did you and Joss Whedon talk about the deeper ideas you wanted to explore in the film?
It happened organically. It’s not like we sat down with a laundry list of things we wanted to comment on. We just told the story and allowed it to take us places that were interesting to us. When we were writing, we weren’t sure any studio would even let us make it, so we let our imaginations run wild.
What, for you, are the important ideas underpinning the movie?
When you watch horror, you start to realise there is a primal need that they’re fulfilling. There’s a reason we like to watch these things and there’s something compelling about why. Why do we have these primal needs? And that led me to think about youth: why do we have this need to objectify youth and then destroy it? It happens in our culture all the time. We put the young up on a pedestal only to rip them down. Once you think about it, you realise this has been happening for ever. Those questions were very much the inspiration for me.
There’s blood and guts in The Cabin in the Woods, but it’s playful. How do you feel about the harsher direction of modern horror?
I love a good harsh horror movie, when it’s done well. But there are times when it feels cynical. You can tell when a filmmaker loves the genre and you can tell when someone’s just cashing in a paycheck. Then it becomes a dumbing down, a fetishisation of violence that I react very
One of the interesting things about The Cabin in the Woods is that, even though it can be glib, there are moments of sadness where you realise that these are real people.
That was crucial. Joss always starts with character. That’s always been his approach, to treat these characters as people. It’s hard to tell, in this movie, who are the heroes and villains, because you understand where everyone is coming from. I feel that in horror movies especially, if you don’t care about the characters, you’ve lost the audience. No-one cares and it becomes a process of watching people get killed.
As a filmmaker, do you feel a moral obligation to your audience?
Absolutely. Which doesn’t mean I feel an obligation to play it safe. I feel an obligation to have something to say. You don’t want to make a movie just to make a movie. You better have a point of view.
The Cabin in the Woods opens on May 3.