Into Whedon's 'Woods'

A new horror flick from a cult writer turns schlock-shock cliches on their heads

April 12, 2012

Fran Kranz regrets ever having mocked "Buffy."

It’s a typical horror movie set-up: Five hot, young college students spend a weekend at a creepy cabin in the woods. So, you know bad things are about to happen.

But what does a sleek top-secret facility shown at the start of the movie (manned by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) have to do with the cabin? And why do the friends seem to increasingly fall into classic horror movie stereotypes? There’s a spunky redheaded heroine (Connolly), her trashy blonde friend (Anna Hutchinson), the friend’s athletic boyfriend (Chris Hemsworth from “Thor”), a bookish love interest (Jesse Williams from “Grey’s Anatomy”) and a friendly pothead (Fran Kranz).

“As the audience, we’ve seen it before,” says Kranz. “As filmmakers they got to have fun with that.”

“They” are writer Joss Whedon — the nerd-god who created cult hits “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly” — and co-writer Drew Goddard, a former “Buffy” writer and “Lost” producer making his directorial debut. In their hands, “The Cabin in the Woods” is far from a typical scary movie.

The film is hyper-aware of its own genre, so the actors had to walk a fine line between playing the scenes straight or with a wink to the audience. Kranz and Connolly played it straight. “[Goddard] was very adamant about it being a group of friends that love each other and that are looking out for each other and to play the situation as really and as honestly as we could,” says Connolly.

Still, Kranz found room to have a little bit of fun with his character, a stoner named Marty. “He’s sort of the fifth wheel and a little bit the wild card and a little suspicious of what’s going on,” says Kranz. “So I thought I was allowed to be a little more self-aware.”

And as with many classic horror movies, there’s a balance between humor and gore, with ridiculous amounts of blood played for laughs. Discussing a scene that had the audience giggling, Connolly says, “We did that in one take because we didn’t have time to get the blood off of me.”

But it’s the Big Mystery at the heart of it all that drives the movie to break stereotypes and go for something larger. “There’s not just one twist, there’s just so many turns and twists,” says Kranz. “It’s kind of a bizarre, entertaining knot to untie.”

Beth Marlowe is a senior editor at Washington Post Express. She has written for The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg Television and other publications.
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