Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Joey Kern
Dir: Eli Roth
A flesh-eating virus turns five friends' cabin escapade into a gory bloodbath.
Here it is--the big screen directorial debut of the Hollywood icon that brought us Inglorious Basterds and Hostels I & II, Eli Roth! Yeah, no, this movie was no Hostel, but it was definitely a start.
Cabin Fever was an early work of Eli Roth that I feel didn't get as much credit as it deserved mainly due to its lack of real "at-the-time" star power and somewhat quirky story. There wasn't much about this movie that one could really call "bad" beyond a lack of refinement, but I digress...
The story begins on a bizarre, albeit sad note when a hermit who has just trapped his dinner for the night brings his kill to his motionless, unresponsive canine. Growing ever curious, the hermit lifts the dog's leg to assess the issue, but to his horror finds the dog's innards have become a putrid liquefied mess. Without a moment to react, a gore pocket bursts and spews bloody ick on his face. Que the dry heaving.
Immediately following this, we are taken to a shot of our main protagonists leaving college for the summer. In a moment of pure traffic light brilliance, Marcy (played by the lovely Cerina Vincent) screams out the window to a little kid to not go to college as it's a "fucking scam". So much for higher learning. A short expositional drive down the highway later, they stop and take the time to gather refreshments and supplies at an old Ma 'n' Pa-type general store where we hear from Jeff (Joey Kern) that they've rented a cabin for about a week.
Things get really awkward as they begin asking questions about the various items in the store, including some fox piss and a shiny rifle...which, for the record, is apparently "for niggers".
The story really begins to move after the group finally makes it to the cabin and immediately begin to unwind.
|Speaking of unwinding...|
What I liked: This movie actually had some balls. Notice I didn't say I liked it because "it was great". It's wasn't the best, but it definitely had balls. I mean, here's a movie that isn't afraid to show sexual proclivities or gore for the sake of the genre as opposed to just being rampantly gratuitous. This was a movie that had fun with itself more for the sake of being entertaining than being an overly pretentious piece about stupid kids in the woods. I point my argument to a list I found of the horror films released in 2002. I'm not claiming to have seen every movie on this list, but I can't think of a single one that had any real fun with the genre without sacrificing so much of its own self that it felt more like running through the motions as opposed to trying to be somewhat different, but entertaining. Bubba Ho-Tep is exempt from this simply because Bruce Campbell is fucking awesome.
But to not get too off track here, there were quite a few things I did find entertaining about this movie.
First, I did enjoy the story, cliché'd as it may be; five stereotypical friend archetypes take a trip to the woods and die. The reason I like it is because of the pacing and overall storytelling. We never know what causes the flesh devouring virus that takes his dog, but from the beginning we know the hermit character, Henry (played by Arie Verveen), has been infected and is now the hot potato, deliriously stumbling upon the carefree cabin kids. As he slowly breaks down, so do they, figuratively and (eventually) literally.
|Hmm...you should squirt some Bactine on that...|
Another facet of the storytelling that I really enjoyed was closer to be beginning, before the introduction of Grim. Paul (Rider Strong) spins the tale of the a bowling alley massacre. The reactions of the characters leave you somewhat unsure as to if the story is or isn't true. That being said, there's a pretty distinct resemblance between Grim and the Bald Guy at the bowling alley. I'm just sayin'.
Getting to the gore and special effects, this movie did a pretty good job of being gross and disgusting, but without being boringly over-saturated. Many of the more shocking scenes were actually well foreshadowed. A good example would be after the group *SPOILER ALERT* deals with Henry for the second time and his face has begun to deteriorate, Paul is seen playing with honey, murmuring "his skin...". Later on, in an unfortunate effort to finally make his dreams come true and get with the sleeping girl of his dreams, Karen (Jordan Ladd), Paul slips his hand under the covers only to pull back with a handful of revolting crotch gore. *SPOILER ALERT*
What I didn't like: The only thing I didn't care for in this movie was probably the overall silliness of the characters. This extends mostly to the ancillary characters, but it also pertains to some of the main stars. For example, I felt Bert's character was a little bit farther beyond retarded than he really should have been. Granted it did make for a couple of funny moments, but mostly it was just painful watching him try to stumble through the whole scenario with the mentality of a stereotype frat brother, minus what little common sense they tend to usually have. Don't get me wrong, I like James DeBello and, to be honest, I think he's a pretty solid actor. I just didn't care for the character much at all.
|"O-M-G!! Fucking razor burn again!!"|
Aside from the scene with the 3-man local militia, I wasn't particularly moved by any of the characters at the general store, either. The old guy was nothing more than a setup for a bad joke that lingers until the end of the movie and the younger gent was...well, really only there to let us know how much of a jackass Bert was.
In a nutshell: Cabin Fever has a sort of classic 80's feel to it that gives you the impression the director may have felt a significant impact from the era and wanted to translate that feeling with a semi-modern twist. The only problem is a bit of that translation was apparently lost in the aether. Considering this was a maiden voyage into the world of silver screen horror, these flaws should be overlookable to the average viewer since not every magic goose shits gold fresh out the shell.
In short: Buy it. Enjoy it. Don't drink the water.