Editor’s Note: This Commentary Commentary, published back in 2012, has been republished, as going to Fantastic Fest and seeing a bunch of great horror movies reminds us of Drew Goddard’s exceptional film.
Since audiences feasted their eyes on The Cabin in the Woods earlier this year, many have waited for the day they could listen to the commentary. To hear Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon wax nostalgic on horror and let us in on the secrets behind the making of this highly inventive movie would truly be a joy.
Now, the DVD/Blu-Ray has been released for this film that’s sure to be on a number of top 10 lists, and not just those of horror fans. So sit back, click off the lights – your computer should light up enough so you can read – and check out all the things we learned listening to this commentary for The Cabin in the Woods.
Cue the harbinger.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Commentators: Drew Goddard (co-writer, director), Joss Whedon (co-writer, producer)
1. The two start off the commentary describing the chardonnay they’re drinking. This item is listed on here for the number of people asking how many commentaries are done while the commentators are inebriated. They usually don’t talk about it unless it’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone. On this commentary, Goddard suggests we get our own bottle and join in. ”
This isn’t like just two nerds sitting in a dark room who made this movie because they have no friends and girls won’t date them. It’s more like we’re very elegant,” adds Whedon.
2. “Opening the movie with this scene is one of my favorite things that we accomplished,” says Whedon over the opening scene with Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins. Goddard agrees adding that he thought it would be a creative way to open the film by making the audience think they had walked into the wrong movie. The studio noticed this, too, and raised their awareness to Goddard and Whedon. “There were some fun discussions with our studio at the time,” adds Goddard.
3. Whedon notes some “conversations” he had with the studio, who were worried that the audience would be too confused too early on. “Well, they’re not going to walk out,” Whedon had said to them. Goddard notes that it goes back with Whedon to his “Buffy” days, how he lets the audience in on the secret without being coy about it.
4. “Did this guy do anything again?” asks Whedon when Chris Hemsworth shows up, filming a scene he did probably a year before Thor came out. “I can’t remember,” the co-writer jokes.
5. The car Marty (Fran Kranz) pulls up in near the beginning of the film is the same car Goddard drove throughout high school, and the action of locking his door without rolling his window up was something the director pulled from his real life, as well. Maybe a few other things about Marty come from Goddard’s real life, but he doesn’t talk about it.
6. The first day of filming was at the gas station location where the group meets Mordecai, The Harbinger. Goddard notes it was his first day of directing a feature film, and when they showed up to the set it was covered in snow. Whedon jokes that, as the film’s producer, he should have known this would be the case, as it was snowing the night before. Goddard remarks this was the moment when he realized he and Whedon were in charge and had to figure things out on their own.
7. Each of the characters had their own scenes specifically written for the auditioning process. Goddard notes The Harbinger (Tim De Zarn) was cast using a scene that had him fighting with a vending machine over a dollar while remarking on grand, existential ideas. He and Whedon were looking for actors who performed their scene more subdued, that they would “bring the silly.”
8. The Cabin in the Woods shot in the woods outside Vancouver, the same woods where the latest Twilight film was shooting concurrently. “If you pan left in any shot, you’ll see Bella and Edward,” jokes Goddard. The real monsters of the horror genre.
9. The way Goddard remembers it, the two always planned for him to direct and Whedon to serve as producer. He recalls Whedon deciding halfway through writing the screenplay that he wanted to direct it instead. Goddard was saddened but took it as a good sign that the movie would get made.
10. The way Whedon remembers it, he and Goddard had no idea who was going to direct it, and the two bandied around director’s names while they wrote. He recalls they landed on Jeepers Creepers director Victor Salva. This information comes right when Jesse Williams is taking his shirt off, but we’ll just chock it up as coincidence. Goddard and Whedon do both note they like the Jeepers Creepers movies.
11. The scene with The Harbinger calling in to the control center was the first scene Goddard and Whedon wrote after Whedon came up with the overall idea. Goddard remembers the idea of him calling in from a payphone was more a logistical answer than trying to come up with something creative or funny. “Everything that this movie is about is encapsulated in a Harbinger being stuck on a speaker phone,” he says. “It kind of has both worlds.”
12. An early idea that Goddard came up with was “Truth or Dare or Lecture” as the game the group plays where one person would lecture someone else in the group about something they didn’t like about them. Evidently, the lecture cut from the script involved Holden lecturing Marty about marijuana. The line “I’m living in a world of reefer” was a call-back to this scene, which Whedon notes was sadly cut due to time. Goddard notes the only things cut from the script were in the first act.
13. “Either they find it disturbingly sexy, just disturbing, or they think the wolf is going to eat her face,” says Whedon, explaining precisely why that particular scene works.
14. The Cabin in the Woods was written by Goddard and Whedon as “something for us,” as they had both just come off feature film projects that didn’t pan out. The two holed up in a hotel room and spent the weekend writing the screenplay as completely as they could, a challenge they put on themselves. The finished film was born out of that weekend.
15. The two discuss “belief systems” of characters and how you rarely empathize with the bad guys’ point of view, and they wanted a film that showed that side of things. “At the end of the day, if you look at this movie, both sides are right,” says Goddard. He notes that he got the idea to work on that angle after watching The Breakfast Club as an adult for the first time and understanding the adults’ side of the film.
16. Goddard grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and he took aspects of his childhood, seeing people like Hadley and Sitterson who go to their job every day creating weapons of mass destruction, for the film. Whedon notes the retro look of the old weapons plants is very evident in the film.
17. Another influence from Goddard growing up in Los Alamos is the fact that the town has the highest number of churches per capita of all the US cities. “You realize that because they’re building weapons of mass destruction, they need faith,” he notes.