It wasn’t an easy time sitting down with The Cabin in the Woods stars Kristen Connolly and Fran Kranz for an interview. The studio had issued a stern NO SPOILERS warning, to a point where three babysitters were perched in the back of the room, listening in on our conversation. I hope you’ll forgive the occasional awkward pauses and subject changes. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon’s meta-deconstructionist horror movie is a picture worth talking about. The effusive young Connolly and her boisterous pal Kranz seemed to agree.
PW: I’m interested in how you approached these roles, because basically you’re playing archetypes in a movie within a movie.
Kristen Connolly: Our approach was to just play it straight, and not worry about the archetype stuff. To just be a group of friends who really loved each other. I think a lot of other factors in the movie do the work for you. Like the costumes … the way that Anna’s shorts get shorter as the movie goes on …
PW: I noticed.
KC: Yeah, and like Jesse gets a pair of glasses, and Chris gets a letterman’s jacket, while I get more buttoned up and wear a cardigan.
Fran Kranz: Drew [Goddard, the director] wanted us to play it naturally and go for the reality of the situation. There was nothing tongue-in-cheek about the performances. Maybe I did a little bit, but I thought my character could get away with that as the fifth-wheel comic relief.
KC: The Shakespearean fool.
PW: How much research you did on horror movies from the 1980s?
KC: We watched the Evil Dead movies, and I think the first Friday the 13th movie?
FK: I think Halloween was in there … The Descent maybe? Joss thought Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was important for us to watch, for the ending. But he did give us the context of the movies that inspired this. It gave us some kind of historical context that made us feel like we were placing ourselves within the history of horror films, and what we were doing was important to the genre and we should treat this as something that should be one of those classics … and I think it will be. It was cool to place ourselves within the canon.
KC: It didn’t feel like some horror movie nobody gave a shit about.
PW: So what do you think it says about the audience? In the end you’re comparing the crowd for slasher movies to a bunch of bloodthirsty monsters who will revolt and destroy the world.
FK: Interesting. I haven’t thought about it that way. I’m not sure.
KC: It does seem like recently there has been a real devouring of these torture-porn movies. I think I saw Hostel, but I haven’t seen any of the Saw movies …
PW: You’re lucky.
KC: I find them so upsetting! I saw Hostel and was like—this is the most upsetting, awful movie I have ever seen! I hated it. I probably shouldn’t say all this stuff. But it is a question that is worth asking: Why are we, as a culture, so obsessed with watching young people tortured … for what? For going on vacation?
PW: They’re better looking than you and they have sex, so they need to die.
KC: Not only need to die, they need to die, like, really painfully!
PW: It always seems to be penetration or puncture wounds, I never figured that out. Freud probably could.
So, essentially, we’re watching a crummy horror film make itself, with sly commentary from the peanut gallery. The effect is sort of like Scream crossed with that final sequence from Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).