Cabin In The Woods Director Drew Goddard Talks Releasing His Inner 12-Year-Old

By Eric Eisenberg 2012-04-13 15:29:49discussion comments
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Earlier you mentioned the creature effects designer and one thing I love about this film is the way it prefers practical effects over CGI. Can you talk a bit about that choice?

Yeah, to some extent this was my first time so I was just naÔve and dumb, but I said, ďThe rule is, if we can make it, weíre going to. Thatís the ruleĒ And to some extent that was the rule because our budget was so low we didnít have a choice, but that was what I wanted. You want those constraints because you just canít beat a tactile monster. Thatís what you want, you want something you can touch. But part of that is my own naivety; I didnít know how hard that would make it. But, weirdly, my naivety helped us because if I were a more seasoned pro I think the crew would have been able to say to me, ďDonít you realize thatís going to make our day four times longer?Ē and I would have been like, ďYes.Ē But this way I could just play dumb. Say, ďI donít know. Make the suit!Ē [laughs]. I donít just do it because thatís what I want. And Iím really happy about that because you just watch it and you canít beat a monster thatís just right there in front of you. Thereís something about it, which isnít a sly towards visual effects, I think visual effects are wonderfulÖ

And theyíve really come far. ButÖ

For a movie like this, in particular, where Ė and I feel this way about horror in general Ė you want to feel the rough edges. If a movie becomes too slick it becomes less scary. In a weird way the best movies you can feel the handmade quality to it and that was very important to me with this one.

Did you have a big hand in the design process?

It was the most fun part. That was part of why I wanted to make this movie so much because it is like this license to make your own toy box with some of the most talented people in the world. Someday I will publish a book on the amount of emails that go into, say, the way a mermanís teeth look [laughs]. The amount of work we did, itís a credit to my team because the hardest thing to combat when youíre a director is a lack of enthusiasm. You want people that get what youíre doing and are enthusiastic and luckily my team was so good. You could just feel the energy of these creature designers. Weíre finally getting to make that movie that we always wanted to make. A movie where we have the freedom to put anything on screen.

Everything [laughs]. Not anything, everything.

[Laughs] Right, everything. And the most fun parts of the job for me were when we didnít have any monsters in the frame and then youíre looking at the frame and saying, ďWe donít have any monsters.Ē And theyíre like, ďWeíve used up all our suits. How do we create something else?Ē And itís like that scene in Apollo 13 when they just dump all the stuff that they have on board and say, ďHereís an air compressor, how do we make this work?Ē We would do that. This is the best: one day, a guy said, ďWe need more intestines, how do we make intestines?Ē And one of my creature guys just stood up and he goes, ďGive me some bubble wrap, some duct tape, andĒÖwhat was the third thing? Oh, it was crazy. It was plastic. And he whipped up some intestines. It was like magic. Just to see people making these things, it felt like youíre 12 again and making movies with your friends in the backyard. That was sort of the vibe that it had. It was really inspiring.

When those elevator doors openÖdid you have a list of all the creatures that you wanted to pour out or was that something that just came with the effects team?

No, we had a list [laughs]. That shot, I spent a year working on before we even got to that level. Thereís some incredibly complicated shots in there. But that was what was fun. And so you start with the basics: what do we need to tell the story? And then once that youíve done that: what have I always wanted to see and how do I work that into this movie? That was not just that shot but the entire movie. On every level, how can we amplify and escalate as well.

Did you have a favorite design?

Yeah. Itís hard, theyíre like my children. I love all of them. The truth is that thereís not one, anyone I didnít like I would have nixed. I love all of them. I learned, though, just in terms of being terrifying, the simpler the better. When we were just seeing whose the scariest, itís impossible to beat a guy with a bag on his head. Thatís just hard to beat.

And the guys with the white baby masks.

You realize while Michael Myers has lasted for so long. Thereís just something about a guy with a mask on that works and is just scary. And thereís a guy with just plastic on his head and heís suffocating and itís terrifying. He would show up on set and I would be like, ďI canít even look at you. Thatís just too off-putting.Ē

I donít know much about directing the creature effects actors versus the non-creature actors. Is there a different approach?

Itís hard because you realize what those poor people go through and Iím the one doing it to them. Which is hard.

Well, play dumb, right?

Kind of. Itís true. Because if you knew you wouldnít make them do it because itís really hard. You realize that thereís a reason you use the same guys because performing as a creature is as much of an art as being a movie star. Not anyone can do it. It takes a special skill because itís really punishing to be in make-up that heavy, especially because we have some heavy latex designs, itís so punishing and hot and miserable. You feel for it, like youíre watching the old Star Wars things where theyíre blow drying Greedo. Now I understand why this happens, because these people are just going through it and yet I still need my shot [laughs]. So I had a lot more empathy for those people.

Did you have to move the schedule around in order to accommodate them?

Oh yeah. Cabin, itís a credit to our ADs, but the schedule was crazy. Like, for instance, we couldnít afford toÖ the way that a lot of movies work these days on the screens in the control room they would just put those in after the fact with computers. But we couldnít afford that. We had to do everything live. So we had to shoot all of the A side first, edit it all, and then have it running back on the B side because we just couldnít afford it another way, which required a tremendous amount of scheduling. I still donít know how we pulled it off, to be honest.

Weíre your dealing with the normal actors, how many takes do you typically prefer to do? Or with the budget were you not even really able to stretch it?

The truth is that every actor is different, every scene is different. Some scenes you want to give a lot of takes to let everyone get comfortable and some scenes they get it right on the first try or because of explosions or whatever you only have one shot at it, so letís get it right. Thatís one of the things I had to learn as a director is that there are no rules. Every situation is different, you have to sort of know your people and know what they need. Itís not about what I think is the right way to do it. Itís more about how do I take these different elements. And so certain scenes we probably did 50 takes on, certain scenes itís the first take. Itís just different. Itís alchemy. Every scene is alchemy.

This is a silly question, but I do feel I have to ask: is the thermos bong real? Props department?

[laughs] Props department made it. And it works!

It works?!

Yeah! I keep saying, ďCan we get products out here? Letís make this thing!Ē
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