There are horror movie cliches "honored conventions," if you like -- that every horror fan knows and embraces.
"All hell is breaking loose, people are dying, and for some reason, a girl has to take her shirt off," says Fran Kranz, one of the stars of "The Cabin in the Woods." "Love that. One of my all-time favorite cliches."
"My favorite is how people want to split up," says Kristen Connolly, Franz's "Cabin" co-star. "Why? Are you kidding me?' All these terrible things are happening and somebody says, 'OK, let's split up.' It happens in every single movie. You yell at the screen, 'No, nooo.' But it doesn't help. They don't hear you."
Make that "We don't hear you." Connolly and Kranz are the very people you'll be yelling at in "The Cabin in the Woods," opening today, Friday the 13th. It's a horror comedy that toys with those conventions. Writer Joss Whedon (TV's "Dollhouse" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and director Drew Goddard (he wrote "Cloverfield") wanted to send up horror movies, and "change the direction" of horror, away from the "torture porn" so popular in recent years, Whedon has said.
So they rounded up five college kids -- a collection of stock horror movie "types" -- and packed them off to a cousin's cabin. In the woods. And once they're on their way, we see just who is engineering their trip and making sure the characters make exactly the mistakes we expect them to.
Kranz plays Marty, "the stoner." And with his mop top and sometimes cracking voice, you can be forgiven for having childhood TV cartoon flashbacks.
"I didn't think about Marty as a new Shaggy. Not when I got the part, not when we were shooting it. But now? How could I miss it? It hit me and I was like, 'Why, why, why didn't I pay more attention to Shaggy when I was a kid, watching 'Scooby Doo?' "
That makes Connolly -- as Dana, the innocent "smart" girl -- a new Velma? Maybe.
"There's always some smart girl who weighs 90 pounds who says, 'I will go down into that dark cellar by myself. Me and me alone!' " Connolly says. "Girl, don't do it. Bad decision-making is the rule in these movies. But Dana [her character] doesn't make many."
There's also a jock, a hot blond and, for good measure, a hunky, sensitive guy. So it's not exactly a straight Mystery Machine team tribute.
The earliest notices for "Cabin" have been breathless raves, like Variety's -- "Not since 'Scream' has a horror movie subverted the expectations that accompany the genre to such wicked effect."
But the movie's been sitting on a shelf, largely due to its original studio's financial difficulties. Cast and crew have had three years to wonder when this thing would come out.
"It's very frustrating," Connolly says. One of the stars, Chris Hemsworth, broke through as "Thor" in the years "The Cabin in the Woods" has sat in limbo. The rest are waiting for their big break to break big.
"You want your family to see this thing you put so much blood, sweat and tears into," Connolly says. "I mean literal blood. Sweat. And tears."
Kranz is just as frustrated, but he's tried to keep it all in perspective. " 'Cabin in the Woods' could be the last movie I make and I'd be happy. I'm that proud of it."
Not that it will be his final film. Kranz has a major role in Whedon's version of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." And Connolly is a lead in Barry Levinson's new viral outbreak thriller "The Bay," due out this summer.