Horror comedies are notoriously difficult to pull off, so you'd think that one of the best examples of that sub-genre in recent memory would have been meticulously plotted over the course of months to balance the scares and the laughs. Well, you'd be wrong.
"Cabin in the Woods" recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and its reputation among genre fans has only grown since its release. That movie has so many layers of horror inside jokes and inversion of spooky tropes, which makes it all the more mind-boggling when you realize that director Drew Goddard and co-writer/producer Joss Whedon wrote the first draft in just three days.
I've heard many first-time filmmakers confidently tell their film festival audience that they knocked out the script in a weekend, and nine times out of 10, the movie we get out of that rushed process is sloppy and slips through the festival cracks never to be heard of again. But there are some famous Hollywood success stories that start like that. Sylvester Stallone said he wrote "Rocky" over a weekend and that movie ended up being a cultural touchstone that won tons of Oscars.
What the writers who brag about a quick first draft tend to leave out is how that draft was then followed up with weeks and months of rewriting and honing into a shooting draft.
For "Cabin in the Woods," Whedon admits that there "was a lot of polish" done after that first draft, but when he described the writing process for that quick first draft it sounds … kinda fun?
Goddard And Whedon Were Like Giddy School Children Writing This Script
Back in a 2012 interview done with Den of Geek, Whedon described the writing process between himself and Goddard as something of a monster kid clubhouse.
"Drew and I got a bungalow in a hotel in Santa Monica. He had the upstairs, I had the downstairs. We already had ten pages and our outline, and we'd already broken it into three acts. Then we'd wake up in the morning, we'd take an act, go through it very specifically, divvy it up, and we both had to do a minimum of 15 pages a day in order to create a screenplay. And we did not talk about anything else. You get in a writers room, and there's just a huge amount of anecdotes and dirty jokes and off-topic stuff. Drew and I literally didn't speak about anything except the film, and wrote all day. And I'd run upstairs and say, 'What about this or that!' and he's come downstairs and say, 'How does this connect with this?' So it was the fastest and most enjoyable thing. We did it in three days. And obviously there'd been a lot of prep, and a lot of polish after, but basically the bulk of the thing just came from our brains."
That sounds more like a geeky sleepover than a serious writer retreat, doesn't it? Perhaps that excitable energy translated into the finished movie? We know Goddard and Whedon are very good at what they do so that surely helped pump out 15 pages a day. But what's even more important is they knew their horror lore so thoroughly that they were already set up to knock this idea out of the park.
Writing is a job, just like any other creative job, but when the writers are having blast putting a story together, you get a little bit of that sense of energetic fun in the finished product. "Cabin in the Woods" is proof positive of that.
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