(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
Stop what you’re doing, horror movie directors, “The Cabin in the Woods” director/co-writer Drew Goddard isn’t buying.
“I can tell when a group of characters are supposed to be friends but don’t care about each other. That’s probably the thing that bothers me the most,” says Goddard, who also wrote “Cloverfield” and worked with “Cabin” co-writer Joss Whedon on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” “When you feel like they don’t care about one another [and] they just want to protect themselves, which is not my experience with people.”
Goddard avoids that convention and many more with “Cabin,” which seems like an ordinary story of five good-looking 20-somethings (including Kristen Connolly and pre-”Thor” Chris Hemsworth) that, without giving anything away, turns into a shockingly awesome commentary on horror genre formula.
At the Peninsula Hotel, Goddard, 37, talked about being terrified of horror movies as a kid, die-hard fans and how much better all movies could be with the addition of zombies.
When you look at the types in “Cabin:” the “whore,” the “virgin,” the “athlete,” it reminded me of “The Breakfast Club.” How much should we see that as a horror movie?
It’s funny ’cause I think one of the things at the core of “Cabin”—as “Cabin” goes it expands so it’s not just about horror movies anymore. It’s about mythology and it’s about archetypes that we’ve had since the beginning of time. Once you start recognizing the archetypes you can spot them in most genres. It’s not just in the horror genre. You can spot them in the comedy genre. You spot them in romantic comedy. You spot them in things like “The Breakfast Club.” Archetypes are archetypes for a reason; they tell us something about ourselves. That was the question of why; why do we create [these] mythologies, is a question that was very much at the heart of this movie.
I would definitely like “The Breakfast Club” better if zombies came out of the gym and attacked everybody.
[Laughs.] Very few movies would not be made better if zombies were suddenly added in the middle of them.
What are the exceptions?
I was going to say “Terms of Endearment,” but “Terms of Endearment” I think would actually be better if some zombies showed up. So none, the answer is none: They’d all be better.
You wanted to make a conscious effort not to seem like you were condescending to other movies. How much frustration do you have as a horror fan when seeing what feels like the same movie over and over?
Tremendous. The thing that bothers me the most is you can really tell when the director or filmmakers in general just don’t care about their subjects. About either their genre or their characters. And if a filmmaker doesn’t care about his characters it just pollutes the whole movie. When that happens that’s when clichéd stuff starts to happen because now characters aren’t even acting like characters; they start acting like your puppets. They start acting like the director’s puppets to just do puppety things and then be done with it.
How can you tell it’s happening?
It’s instinct I guess. It’s not like there’s a clue. You can just tell they don’t care. The deaths become arbitrary. The deaths become fetishized. It’s like, “Oh, that guy’s dead. Move on.” There’s not a sense that these people are real people.
What would it be like if someone took a “Cabin in the Woods”-style approach to another genre?
Joss and I talk about that all the time. [Laughs.] We would love to do “Cabin in the Woods” with a romantic comedy. You can sort of see the same sort of manipulation. ’Cause that’s a genre that I think, the romantic comedy has become a little stale in the last 10 years. It’s a genre I love and I would love to see somebody do it right again. It would be fun to put them through our ringer.
What do you make of mash-ups like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”?
It always comes down to execution. Some of your favorite movies, if you heard them in one-line form, before [the movie] came out, you would go, “That movie sounds terrible.” But then it’s done well and you’re like, “Oh, this movie is great.” If they do it well, there’s no bad ideas. And if it’s terrible [execution], no amount of the idea can save it.