Runtime: 1 hr 34 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Eli Roth
Starring: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent, Joey Kern, Jeff Hoffman
True horror-themed fun.
Review by: TomElce
Added: 8 years ago
Exhibit A in the defense of audience-splitting splat-pack director Eli Roth is Cabin Fever, a horror-in-the-woodlands piece that suggests the Tarantino-supported filmmaker a master of upending expectations. Far from being some intensely frightening horror exercise in seclusion, the movie's something of a broad comedy, often surprising in the particular brand of humour Roth brings to proceedings. Case in point: the apparent racism of a gas station attendee is flipped on its head as the movie climbs to its end credits sequence. The result? You're taken out of the film laughing, even when Roth switches to the sight of a defeated victim of the titular disease (which is literalized, not just a case of mental breakdown). As with would-be similarly-tinged movies like Wrong Turn, caring about the characters on show is near impossible, the stylistic approach the director takes is what's interesting.
Those who balked at the impromptu game of soccer that closed the underrated Hostel: Part II need not apply, Cabin Fever being similarly perverse and twisted, with the same loud wit and attention to ridiculousness. For the teen characters taking to a woodlands cabin at the beginning of the movie, events shall go quickly awry in a manner that doesn't ease viewers into the core storyline like more run-of-the-mill efforts of this nature do. A panicked man with a grotesque red rash (complete with open sores) comes into proceedings, his maniacal behaviour leading to murder and paranoia; are the kids going to be held accountable for the actions they've taken?; was the man's condition infectious?
Divisive though they are, the one-two punch of Hostel and Hostel: Part II will always be the more palatable works of Roth's career thus far, Cabin Fever existing as the odd one out. Logical progression was occasionally averted in the duo of Hostel films, but neither were as cartoonish in their presentation of live-action protagonists and antagonists as is Cabin Fever. If the Southern characters of Deliverance were brutal and unforgiving, the approach taken by those encountered by the assortment of protagonists in Cabin Fever are haphazardous in their actions, dimwitted in their motivations and all-out ridiculous. In the world Roth's created here, signs like "Do Not Sit Next to Dennis" (a quiet blond-haired boy who sits on a swing outside a shop run by his father) are prominently displayed in the background as Dennis (seemingly infected, played by Matthew Helms) chomps into the arm of Bert (James DeBello), after doing kung-fu stances/movements of course. It's a visual and technical approach that disarms – more than an inferior Evil Dead knockoff, Cabin Fever is an invigorating new experience and true horror-themed fun.
Finding only help that isn't really help at all, the teens decide to hold up in their cabin long enough for their car (damaged by the man who arrived earlier) to get towed or fixed. Naturally, problems escalate as the disease begins to grow in their midst, the results being equally gory and frenzied. Not caring to cater to the weak-stomached, Roth captures the grisly infection as such, skin and flesh ultimately tearing off as the severity of the individual infections increase at different rates throughout the group. Red raw flesh, open wounds and all, Cabin Fever transforms into a fight for survival between the initial characters and also those they encounter, fighting off infected people and animals alike, as well as those aware of the group's predicament that are intent on stopping the spread of the seemingly contagious disease. Cabin Fever unravels as extreme and adrenaline-charged, the combination of frequent gags and death scenarios adding to one nihilistic, headspinning genre experience. Bizarre and brilliant, Cabin Fever ensures that you'll never look at pancakes the same way again.