Starring: Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent, Joey Kern
Director: Eli Roth
Review by Reece De Ville
“We’ve got cabin fever, it’s running through our brain…we’ve got cabin fever, it’s driving us insane!” So sang Pepe the Prawn in MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND, but CABIN FEVER, the gruesome debut from Eli Roth, is more a case of “If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a BIG surprise….” Oh, and there sure ain’t no buried treasure round these parts boy!
Coming from his own experiences of having a flesh disease at the age of 19, Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER wears its influences on its bloody sleeve. From THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to THE EVIL DEAD, Roth references them all in a film that feels like a breath of (diseased) fresh air amongst the current crop of tepid, CGI fuelled teen carve ’em ups. So we have the eerie cabin in the woods, a bunch of teenagers (party boy jock, nervous virgin, naughty slut etc etc), the local hillbilly family who ‘don’t like strangers round these parts’ and the mistrusting sheriff who is always one step away from a gory comeuppance. Yes it’s been done before, and yes Roth is riffing on all manner of staple horror genre scenes (even going so far as to include some of the original music from Wes Craven’s debut shocker THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT), but the sheer humour and lack of ‘hey we’re in a horror movie irony’ propels the film through any lingering doubts of originality.
The onslaught of the disease is played out cleverly with just the right amount of effects used (courtesy of KNBFX – see FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) to pull the audience into the horrific story that is unfolding. From an under the bedclothes fumble to THAT shaving scene (you’ll know what I mean when you see it….) the sheer degradation endured by these teenagers errs dangerously towards the side of enforcing nausea. Inter-cut with the disease itself is the group’s paranoia over who will be next and just what the hell they’re going to do about it all alone in the woods – well, save for a group of psychotic hillbillies and an amorous deputy sheriff.
Still, it’s not a film without its problems. As much as I like the witty references to Roth’s heroes of horror, it seems to be a convenient way to gloss over the script inadequacies. Lack of character development? Misplaced humour? Less than tight editing? You’d have to put a check in all of those boxes. It is rather a patchwork quilt of the horror genre, and treads a fine line between knowingly dumb and just plain old lazy.
However, we’re not talking about a bid for Oscar glory here. This is an out and out balls to the wall horror flick that, whilst not fully having the courage of it’s convictions to shy away from some of the edge removing humour, proves a noteworthy debut for Roth. CABIN FEVER is one fever you’re going to want to catch.
Review by Neils Hesse
Sex, teenagers, a remote little cabin and a flesh eating virus are all the essential elements of a good innovative horror movie.
A group of teenagers book a small cabin in the woods with the intention of having a really groovy time. Everything starts out fine until one of the group bumps into a sickly man who pleads for help as his skin is literally peeling off and his body is oozing blood. He is ignored by the teenager and falls into a ditch apparently left for dead.
Just as the group is settling into their cosy, little cabin the sick man from the woods reappears with even worse wounds on his body and spitting blood. In their shock they set the man on fire and he runs off burning into the woods, eventually falling in a nearby lake and dying, and that just happens to be the only water supply for the cabin. Suffice to say one of them gets the virus and this leads to the breakdown of their initially strong circle of friendship, as they prove to be extremely selfish once the issue of survival arises.
CABIN FEVER has plenty of genuinely skin crawling and thought provoking moments. The ensemble cast all give mediocre performances and there’s a very weird, funny turn by Giuseppe Andrews as a deputy law enforcement officer. Despite the ending being very strange on the whole the movie is a refreshing take on the teen horror movie.