After languishing for over two years on a shelf thanks to the MGM bankruptcy, the highly anticipated horror film The Cabin in the Woods finally played to a raucous, rapturous crowd Friday night at its world premiere at the SXSW film festival. There’s just one problem, summed up by co-writer/producer Joss Whedon’s introduction of the film: “I hope you enjoy it, and then sorta keep it to yourself.”
A twisted take on the horror genre, Cabin in the Woods is so riddled with genuine spoilers that talking about the film without ruining in some way it is an exercise in futility. (Which is why I’m going to put up the requisite SPOILER ALERT now, even though I’m going to try my darndest to avoid spoiling anything.) After the screening, Whedon and co-writer/director Drew Goddard — joined by costars Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Kristen Connolly, and Anna Hutchinson — were reticent at first to talk at all about the film’s many twists and turns. But Goddard did at least manage to sum up his feelings about seeing with an audience for the first time. “I’m trying very hard not to cry on stage,” he said. “That was a dream come true, thank you.”
Eventually, everyone more-or-less loosened up, discussing many elements of the film that I dare not mention here. When asked if they intended to make “the last horror movie of all time,” Whedon cracked, “Yes, yes, that’s it for horror. I hope you like romcoms, because that’s what you’re getting!” Whitford said that he was drawn to the project in part because of Whedon’s involvement and the strength of the script. “And I really wanted to work with Richard Jenkins,” he added, to much applause. “I didn’t realize until I got to Vancouver that I’d confused him with Richard Benjamin.”
The most poignant moment of the Q&A came when Whedon and Goddard talked about writing the script together in large part over just three days. “There was no back-tracking,” said Whedon. “There was no second-guessing. There was no question about what we were trying to do. Every day was an act [of the script]. Every day we would break [the story], split it, and each of us had to write 15 pages that day, no matter what. Which is not an easy thing to do, except when it’s the easiest thing that you’ve ever done.”
And for Goddard? “This came from a place of love,” said the director. “We just love horror movies. Joss and I were sitting around saying, ‘If we can do whatever we wanted to, what would we do?’ We didn’t develop this for a studio. We just did it because we wanted to entertain each other and pray to God that somebody would let us make it. So it came from this place of, ‘All right, f— it. We’re going to do whatever we want to.’ And it seems to have worked out.”
You’ll be able to judge for yourself when Lionsgate releases The Cabin in the Woods wide in theaters on April 13. Until then, I implore you: Don’t let anyone ruin this film for you. After such a long wait even to make it to theaters, it deserves at least that much.