AUSTIN, Texas - After several years of studio purgatory, Joss Whedon's long-shelved, much-anticipated horror film "The Cabin in the Woods" finally arrived before audiences at the South By Southwest Film Festival.
Nobody complained about the delay.
"It really holds up," deadpanned Whedon after the Friday evening premiere before a rapturous, hooting crowd at Austin's Paramount Theatre. "I would say, timeless classic."
"The Cabin in the Woods," which Whedon produced and co-wrote with director Drew Goddard, had been stuck in limbo after its studio, MGM, went bankrupt in 2010. It is being released by Lionsgate, opening on April 13.
The film couldn't have played better as the opener of SXSW, a festival known for its warm receptions to edgy popcorn fare. The Oscar-nominated comedy "Bridesmaids" premiered at the festival last year.
The SXSW crowds, currently attending the film festival and its mobbed interactive section, regard Whedon as something of a geek god. The creator of the cult TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly," as well as the acclaimed Web series "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," is beloved for his witty genre inventions.
Hundreds of fans packed a Whedon question-and-answer panel Saturday, as many more swarmed outside watching on a TV.
"I have a lot of ideas," said the prodigious Whedon in a career-ranging talk.
Talking about "The Cabin in the Woods," which co-stars Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, has proved challenging, since any discussion quickly leads to giving away its unpredictable plot.
The film takes a playful approach to horror film conventions. It may sound like a cliche horror setting - a remote cabin visited by five college friends - but "The Cabin in the Woods" is far stranger (and funnier) than its old-fashioned facade.
Whedon granted that "awesome" was an acceptable, spoiler-free description, and few seemed to disagree Friday night. One attendee asked if he had intended to make "the last horror film of all time."
"Yes, that's it for horror," said Whedon. "Hope you like rom-coms, `cause that's what you're getting."
Whedon and Goddard (a veteran TV writer of "Buffy" and "Lost" and the film "Cloverfield" making his directorial debut) holed up in a hotel room and wrote the film over three days. Whedon said a day in which he wrote 26 pages is "a personal best."
They wrote it shortly before Whedon made "Dr. Horrible," and he said both came from a similar impulse to cut loose from Hollywood restrictions. He called both "ragingly ridiculous."
Since making "The Cabin in the Woods," Whedon has kept busy. He's written and directed an upcoming adaptation of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" and the major Marvel blockbuster, "The Avengers," due out in May.
Whedon said that film would celebrate the comic heroes - Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and others - in a fan-boy way. He said his approach isn't like the more self-conscious "The Dark Knight," but compared it to "a war movie."
"I'm not ready to be postmodern about superheroes yet," Whedon said Saturday to warm applause.
His next project - "the next voice I'm hearing in my head," he said - is another Web series called "Wastelanders." Whedon called it a "dark, weird piece."
The long list of upcoming work only reinforced the wait for "The Cabin in the Woods." Whitford joked of Whedon and Goddard: "They won't work with us anymore."