Cabin Fever

Reviewed By Brian McKay
Posted 04/21/03 06:01:19

"A skin-crawling, gut-busting, Karo-syrup covered good time in the sticks"
5 stars (Awesome)

Whenever a director welcomes an audience to a screening of his film with a greeting of "Thanks for coming out . . . you sick fuckers!", you know the next ninety minutes will be anything but dull. So what is CABIN FEVER? Well, chop up some films like EVIL DEAD 2, DELIVERANCE, (John Carpenter’s) THE THING, and OUTBREAK, add a few gallons of red Karo syrup and fake body parts, top it off with writer/director Eli Roth's twisted yet exuberant sense of humor, and dump it all into a cement mixer. Voilà! New horror classic.

Built upon the tried but true “Five kids take a drive into the woods” template, Cabin Fever begins with five white college kids loading up the truck and heading for an isolated rental cabin for a much-needed post-finals break. Karen (Jordan Ladd) is the perky blonde. Paul (Rider Strong of Boy Meets World) is her best friend who’s had a crush on her since the eighth grade, and who hopes to make “the big play’ up at the cabin. Marcy (Cerina Vincent, the inhumanly hot naked chick from Not Another Teen Movie) is the slutty brunette – and yes, she gets naked again in this film. Bert (James Debello) is her cocky boyfriend. And of course, rounding out the group is Jeff (Joey Kern), the obnoxious beer-swilling guy who usually ends up getting them into trouble.

On the way to the cabin, they stop in town for groceries and run into a shady-looking group of oddball rednecks who run the general store. When they ask the old man behind the counter (Robert Harris, in his hilarious debut) what the rifle hanging on the wall is for, he casually replies “Oh, that’s for the niggers.” One can almost hear banjos playing and someone saying “squeal like a piggy” in the distance. After beating a hasty retreat up to the cabin, they settle in for a long week of swimming, drinking, fucking, and in Jeff’s case, shooting at the local varmints with an assault carbine.

Everything seems to be going just dandy – until a man shows up late one night, pounding on the door and begging for help. When they open up and see him covered in blood and oozing scabs, they decide that maybe inviting him in for cocoa and s’mores isn’t such a hot idea. But when the man tries to steal their car, and they damage it while chasing him away, they find themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere with no working car, no phone, and a nasty flesh-eating virus on the loose. When they attempt to get help from the locals, they find that the locals aren’t exactly the helpful kind.

Place your bets on who’s going to start the uncontrollable scratching first.

Like the Evil Dead films that it so lovingly tips its hat to, Cabin Fever delivers up buckets of grue along with a bellyful of laughs. It takes a rare kind of talent to make a film that can have you falling out of your seat with laughter one minute and wincing in disgust the next – or both simultaneously. And while it’s not likely that Cabin Fever will knock the likes of Evil Dead 2 from its place atop the pillar of campy B-movie horror greatness, it definitely rocks that pillar a few times – then leaves blood-splattered sneezes all over it. For all the many things the film has going for it, it could probably use a bit more tweaking and tightening up in the editing room. Several of the later scenes, like the appearances of Deputy Winston for example (played by Detroit Rock City’s Giuseppe Andrews), while funny, tend to break the flow and nudge the scales a bit too far towards a yuck fest of the Super Troopers variety, disrupting the delicate balance between comedy and horror. Still, in spite of some moments that feel superfluous or meandering, Cabin Fever is a rock-solid addition to the pantheon of beloved low-budget indie horror greats.

Roth is a guy who knows and loves his horror films with unbridled passion, not some hired-gun director brought in to crank out the latest generic crappy horror clone - and it shows in his work. CABIN FEVER earns a 4.5 star rating, but Roth's exuberance, both behind the camera and in person, nudges it right over into 5-star territory. Eli Roth, you are a sick fucker . . . and we thank you for it.

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