Quint chats with Joss Whedon about horror cliches, the societal need for horror movies and Cabin in the Woods!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Now, I was more than happy to accept some Cabin in the Woods interviews because I think the movie’s great, but chatting about this movie in particular was difficult. So, I accepted sit downs with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard for the film. I got less than 10 minutes with Joss, so it made sense to try to make this one spoiler-lite.
But with Goddard I got about half an hour, which means I have a very detailed interview that goes deep into spoiler territory that I plan to post next Monday, giving you guys a shot at catching the flick this weekend before going whole hog into the details of the craziness contained within the film.
I met Whedon briefly during my Avengers Set Visit, but this was the first time I got to speak with him one on one. His appeal within the geek community was explained to me about 20 seconds into our conversation. His giddy excitement, his slight lisp, his nerdy asides… He appeals so much to us because he is one of us… albeit with a bit more talent.
When the publicist introduced us she said I was from Ain’t It Cool News. Whedon smiled and said, “I’ve heard of it.” He asked how Harry was and I told him I had just seen the first Jim Henson Company Harry puppet, built for the Ain’t It Cool TV show and that’s where the below begins. Enjoy!
Quint: Did you see the Harry puppet?
Joss Whedon: No.
Quint: The Henson Company has made a Harry puppet and now the world, I guess, can end. He has his very own muppet…
Joss Whedon: I kind of thought he already was. (Laughs)
Quint: Well I loved the movie, man.
Joss Whedon: I’m so glad.
Quint: I grew up a horror kid, so it’s always good to see the genre handled with some love, especially when the people making it don’t forget these movies are supposed to be fun. I think the film hits that sweet spot between taking itself seriously and not putting itself above the genre. After SCREAM there was a glut of rip-offs that actually missed the point of what SCREAM was trying to do and so we just got a decade of really bad horror movies that were making fun of the genre.
Joss Whedon: Drew [Goddard] was saying the other day, SCREAM was clearly made by people who love horror movies and everyone is like “Oh, they deconstructed the horror movie. You can’t make one anymore.” I’m like “That was a terrifying horror movie, where you are really worried about the people in it. End of story.” That’s the goods. There have been a bunch of successful and some awesome horror movies since then. You can’t stop it. That train is going to run, because people need it. That’s part of what we were writing about. It’s not just like “Horror is fun.” It’s like “Horror fulfills a basic human need. We are not exactly sure we understand it. We think it might not be good, but we have it and we love it.”
Quint: There have been studies where they’ve talked about how horror is actually a very important release for people. Humans have this built up paranoia and fear and all of this stuff anyway and that scary stories, books, or movies are kind of a safe way to release that stress.
Joss Whedon: It’s sort of an inoculation. It’s “Oh, things are so horrible” and then you get out and you’re like “Oh, actually no, things are not as horrible as it was for those people and so I can go about my day.” But there’s also a joy in it. It’s a release, but it’s not just something you get through. It’s not just therapy. There’s a genuine joy in being frightened that is giddy.
Quint: I think one of the reasons why the movie works so well for me is not just because you love genre, but because you love the characters in this movie and that’s something that, especially in genre, you don’t see a lot. Kind of since the SAW era it just seems to be about the complexity of the kill, not about who was in the trap.
Joss Whedon: This movie was definitely a reaction to that, because Drew and I both felt like “Well there’s a bit of a devolution going on here” and it happens in all genres. This is something that I’ve only realized talking about this movie lately, but you look at action movies and eventually it’s just a series of explosions. If you look at romantic comedies and eventually it’s LOVE ACTUALLY, it’s just, like, hit you over the head and horror movies become a series of inventive killings of people you don’t care about.
I am unable to write about people that I don’t care about and that goes for everybody. That goes for Mordecai… I love that guy! I don’t necessarily want to have dinner with him, I’m just saying I love him. The point of this movie to a larger extent is these are textured interesting humans who love each other and they are being force to devolve into horror movie clichés and it’s the one cliché that I’m not interested in, which is: “Oh look it’s okay, they are expendable.” They smoke pot, they have sex, so it’s okay to kill them. I’m like “When did that come into the equation?”
Quint: It’s also a movie oddly without real bad guys in a way. I feel sorry for the Buckner family even, because it’s their role. I feel sympathy and empathy for those in the “office” section. I feel empathy with all of the characters in peril.
Joss Whedon: I’m very glad to hear it. That was the point. It was always that everybody in this movie is doing what they think is right, including the terrifying Buckners, because they have a belief system, which writing that diary… Drew was like “Hey, do you want to write a 14 year old girl’s turn of the century diary about worshipping pain?” I’m like “Yeah, I can do that.” “Okay.”
You know, that was one of the great things about this. He’s like “Okay, I’m going to write a girl making out with a wolf’s head! I’ll catch up with you.”
Absolutely, you have to have sympathy for all of the characters. You have to understand both sides of the conflict, otherwise it’s not a conflict, it’s just a fight. Sometimes it’s fine to just say “Okay, bad guys are bad and we’ve got to get out of this situation,” but it’s much more interesting, especially in a situation like this where you are going to spend a lot of time with both sides of this weird filmic equation to understand that everybody is doing what they think is best. There’s a moment that I’m obviously going to be vague about interview-wise, but towards the end of the movie that for me I get chills every time. I get so excited every time.
Quint: We are going to have to talk vaguely, but I love that there can be arguments about wrong decisions being made towards the end. I firmly believe the “Spock argument” should come into play, “The good of the many outweigh the good of the few.”
Joss Whedon: You can absolutely go “Wow, some very bad decision making went on” and we’re not just talking about the pot and the sex. (laughs) At the same time, that sort of dehumanizing of people is what we were reacting to and the movie has a very sort of humanistic message in the sense of “I will stand by my friend.” That’s how humanity is supposed to work and if it doesn’t work that way, then what else have we got?
Quint: How did the big premiere? How did that play for you?
Joss Whedon: You know, being in a 1,200 seat theater full of people laughing and screaming and applauding sucked and I never want to have to go through that pain again. (Laughs) I had not seen the film since we completed it, which was a couple of years ago and had opportunities to and was like “No, I’m going to watch it at SXSW.” I deliberately waited, so I could be a little bit surprised, even by what we had made and it was a glorious experience.
It’s so exciting for me particularly because I feel like with Drew and Kristen [Connolly] I’ve been sitting on a secret for three years that she is this extraordinary actress and he’s this great director and you know, nobody’s got the chance to find out. I mean, Chris Hemsworth? I’m less worried about him. He’s doing okay.
Quint: He might be alright, yeah.
Joss Whedon: I just felt like everybody in the movie brought such humanity and texture and Drew did an extraordinary job and I’m just waiting for the world to catch up and now they can.
Quint: Well I think it’s hard for anybody to watch that movie and not fall in love with Kristen.
Joss Whedon: Yeah. We all… we all did. That’s all I’m going to say. (laughs)
Quint: Sure, sure. Well thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
Joss Whedon: Thank you.
There you have it. The flick finally, finally, finally comes out this weekend! It’s really good, we’re not bullshitting you. Go watch it and enjoy because then you can come back and read my extensive interview with director Drew Goddard about all sorts of spoilery goodness. Check back Monday for that!
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April 12, 2012, 6:39 p.m. CST
by Stifler's Mom
Hope we dont have another CABIN FEVER on our hands.
April 12, 2012, 6:47 p.m. CST
April 12, 2012, 6:47 p.m. CST
April 12, 2012, 6:48 p.m. CST
I like surprises. That poster's cool, too.
April 12, 2012, 6:56 p.m. CST
by Kill List Hammertime
April 12, 2012, 6:59 p.m. CST
by Stifler's Mom
At long last, my screen name is relevant again.
April 12, 2012, 7:07 p.m. CST
April 12, 2012, 7:30 p.m. CST
by Red Ned Lynch
...this is not a case of AICN pumping up a substandard film. This is a well constructed movie that Whedon and Goddard constructed to benefit from their strengths. There are a couple familiar Whedon tropes here but they work in the service of this plot. Don't go in expecting this movie to be a revelation (unless you have very little experience with horror fiction), and don't expect the ultimate experience in gut wrenching terror because that's not what the movie's about. But this is the kind of scary movie you get maybe two or three times in a good year... ...and we haven't had many good years lately.
April 12, 2012, 7:33 p.m. CST
April 12, 2012, 7:37 p.m. CST
Kind of since the SAW era it just seems to be about the complexity of the kill, not about who was in the trap.
I sort of categorically disagree with this. There was cannon fodder in SAW -- especially as the series delved further and further into sequeldom -- but I was more interested in the fates of the 'main characters' of each film than I was in various HALLOWEEN, ELM STREET, and FRIDAY films. I saw some online critic argue that torture-porn films are actually closer to 'value of life' films, and I agree with that. SAW's a convoluted soap opera, but the characters matter more to each story than they do in just about any horror series.
April 12, 2012, 8:27 p.m. CST
Good points, and I'd add that lumping all of those films together isn't quite fair. The first Saw, for instance, as you mentioned, had characters I cared for a LOT more than 100% of the characters in every slasher film I watched in the 80s-90s. I think as a genre, we've run out of ideas... and really places to go with it, in my opinion. But Saw was certainly no Serbian Film, or vice-versa. (IOW... Serbian was crap and Saw wasn't)
April 12, 2012, 8:44 p.m. CST
including the bad guys, the good guys and the titular house. And then she makes some clever quips. Not necessarily in that order.
April 13, 2012, 12:12 a.m. CST
April 13, 2012, 1:45 a.m. CST
And it was awesome! Can't wait to see it again!
April 13, 2012, 4:28 a.m. CST
Good Scream analogy Joss, unfortunately, I didn't care what happened to anyone in 'Cabin'. Good but should have been exceptional.
April 13, 2012, 7:07 a.m. CST
And seven seasons of 'Buffy' didn't make fun of the genre around the same period? Go on, Buffy, say something 'clever' to the monster before you kick it in the balls! Then you and your school friends can get around a table and make jokes about how you fight unspeakable things on a daily basis.
April 13, 2012, 7:22 a.m. CST
Nobody cared about the characters in those movies either. There are exceptions of course. Nancy in Elm St, Laurie in Halloween, what's her name in Hellraiser...basically the virginal protagonist. But who else? And besides Freddy who became a joke after part 3 and Pinhead who really was just an awesome looking dude who didn't do much, the villains weren't really memorable or interesting. I'm not a fan of the Saw movies but you can't deny that they at least had plots and a villain with motivation and not just some asshole in a mask who won't die for some reason.
April 13, 2012, 10:33 a.m. CST
Joss Whedon is my master now.
April 13, 2012, 12:45 p.m. CST
It wasn't making fun of the genre. The threats against the heroes were always treated seriously. There was humour, yeah, but we were laughing with the characters, not at them. By your logic, Die Hard is a spoof of action movies because John McClane made fun of the bad guys.
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