If Hollywood, like a certain other industry, operated under a policy of omerta, then Fran Kranz would certainly be a member in good standing.
Kranz has the role of his young life in producer/writer Joss Whedon's horror/comedy "The Cabin In the Woods," a possible career game-changer that he's been sitting on for three years as the movie wound its tortured way through a movie-studio bankruptcy. Kranz — like all the cast members — has been under strict orders not to talk about the movie, lest plot details in this spoiler-endangered story ruin some opening-weekend surprises.
"It's definitely been a test of how well you can keep a secret. Not just in doing press for the movie, but in my normal life. I have friends who want to know, and I want to tell them, but it wouldn't be fair. Believe me, the less you know about this movie, the better."
Kranz plays one of five college kids (he's the token pothead) who head out on a weekend retreat to a cabin in the wilderness, where the hills have eyes, and the eyes . .?. well, somebody's watching. Suffice it to say that what happens to the college kids is what usually happens to such characters in horror movies — it's the how and why that make Whedon's movie unique.
"Cabin," he said, is a horror move about horror movies, but it differs from "Scream" in that it challenges horror fans to think about their relationship to the genre. "The movie has fun with horror-movie conventions, but at the same time I know that Joss and were frustrated with where the horror genre was going — the torture porn, violence for violence's sake, the evisceration of young people," he said. " ?'Cabin' kind of questions the values of the audience that likes horror movies. There is something macabre in the idea that we like to watch this. Do you want the characters to escape, or do you want to see them suffer? It's a puzzling thing to hold that mirror up to the audience."
Also puzzling to outsiders: the movie's plot, the details of which have been kept from the public, even the geek public. Kranz knows it's been frustrating for devoted Whedon fans, who've been obsessing over the movie for years. (Kranz appeared in Whedon's TV show "Dollhouse.")
"I had a friend who said all the reviews were bad, and I said, 'What do you mean? I thought they were all good,' and he said, 'No, they're bad because they don't say anything!'? " Kranz said, laughing. Kranz can afford to laugh. He's seeing the professional dividends. Buzz for his role in "Cabin" helped him land a coveted Broadway role in the Mike Nichols revival of "Death of a Salesman," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. And Whedon cast Kranz in an update of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," as Claudio.
The movie, like "Cabin," is shrouded in secrecy.
"I just emailed saying, 'Man, can you help me out, because to be honest, this not saying anything is making everybody crazy,'?" he said. He's permitted to say that the movie is all handheld, shot in black and white, guerrilla-style, in just two weeks, cutting out much of the play but preserving what original language remained.
And in the end, Kranz is happy to stay mum on details, so long as the movies find an audience. Any audience.