Cabin Fever (2002)
Cast: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Joey Kern, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello
Director: Eli Roth
Nutshell: Good old fashioned shocker laced with plenty of gore and humour
Cabin Fever caused a furious buzz when it screened at the festivals at Sitges (2002) and Toronto and suddenly the horror fraternity was salivating in anticipation of what was being touted as “the new Evil Dead” – a huge burden to bear. So, does this film by rookie director Eli Roth who learned his trade under the manic genius of David Lynch live up to the hype or was it just a lot of hot air especially as when it finally hit theatres in the post summer lull of September, it didn’t quite live up to expectations.
Well, the film doesn’t waste much time setting the tone for the grisly road ahead – the song written by Krug’s real life brother (Krug from Last House on the Left who went on to inspire Freddy Kruger…) plays in the background as a group of five college kids head out to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of “exploration and adventure” (double entendre very much intended). There is menace already in the air as in the opening shot we are shown a man infected with the ghastly condition of necrotising fascitis – where your flesh literally rots away in a matter of a few days, tottering around the forest, desperately searching for help.
Just when our college students are getting down to basics the incredible melting man with necrotising fascitis pays them a visit and they in turn, realising that his condition might be infectious, flail him to a bloody pulp leaving him for dead. Then, slowly but inexorably, the dreaded disease starts catching on and tensions start to rise as the sick are callously shunned when they start showing signs of putrefying into vile rotting mess. The question thereafter is rather another case of so, who will survive and what will be left of them all over again!
Cabin Fever is a highly entertaining horror flick – high on style, energy, humour and good old gross out gore with a few shocks thrown in for good value. Eli Roth’s camera has flair and the shots of the jungle sometimes evoke the creepiness of the jungle in Evil Dead which is high praise. The actors perform decently especially Rider Strong as Paul whose character turns full circle as the films ghastly conclusion unfolds. There is homage to the pulpy horror of the 70’s and early 80’s by the bucketful – some call it “being derivative” but there is at least one classic original scene; the shaving scene which will have viewers squirming in agony as it unfolds and will be imprinted in the memory for years to come. The background music is highly effective in parts with some wonderfully eerie, off-key drones adding to the tension.
Basically it’s a pulpy sort of back to basics horror flick that is quite refreshingly simple in these days of the M. Night Shyamalan style horror movies that are so polite, sterile and so pompously dressed up in their “look at me aren’t I brilliant” style – horror films for people who don’t watch horror movies. In other words to look for plot holes and inconsistencies is fine, but I’d rather judge a flick like this one by the amount of entertainment it provided me and in those rather raw terms, Cabin Fever scored fairly high. It’s certainly grips one’s interest from early on and just at one point when the film appears to be meandering it suddenly takes a gruesome downward spiral moving along rapidly providing enough nastiness to satiate the old school gore fiend.
There were screams and laughs aplenty at the cinema we viewed it at and enough people squirming just as the director had intended. So, yes, the film absolutely succeeds in what it was trying to achieve and for those looking for some good old fashioned horror fodder or the perfect date movie that emphasises pulpy horror, “thrills” and shocks rather than something you ‘take home’; this is spot on.
Great to see the trend in 2003 of horror films finally beginning to turn suitably horrible, about bloody time! Not quite living up to the hype maybe, and certainly not another Evil Dead, but certainly enough to chew on.