Cabin Fever


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Cabin Fever
"It is to Roth's credit that he maintains a degree of tension to what could easily have ended in farce."

What is it about the woods? Ever since Deliverance, going down to them has been a scary business. At least there's nothing supernatural this time. It's medical, which implies curable, except in North Carolina the locals stay inbred and you can never be sure they'll come through for you.

Eli Roth's directorial debut is old-fashioned in the best way. It tells a story, stays in character, keeps the special effects to a minimum and makes a low budget B-picture look like the real thing. Shot on location, it doesn't fake it, although you are aware of cinematic influences, such as John Carpenter's The Thing.

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There have been so many movies of college buddies taking a drugs, booze and sex vacation in the middle of nowhere, only to become lunchmeat for the local serial killer, that watching these kids fooling around in their Jeep on the long drive north to that cabin in the woods there is a strong sense of deja-vu.

They are an odd bunch. Jeff and Marcy can't keep out of each other's pants. Paul and Karen have been friends since first grade, but never made it to second base. Bert is an emotionally brutalised yobbo who thinks farting in your face is funny and killing furry animals the ultimate buzz.

There are certain things about the plot that have to be taken on trust and it's not easy. What do these people have in common? Why are they together? When the virus attacks, it is so virulent that it makes ebola look like a bad case of the flu. If such an instantly fatal disease existed in life, you can imagine the national panic. Remember Sars?

When they start getting infected, rather than shutting the patient in a shed to rot, why don't they go for a doctor? Okay, they try, but it's pretty half hearted. You have to imagine, as in The Thing, that they are isolated from the world and have to deal with the problem by themselves. Even when a young deputy sheriff turns up on a bicycle, for heaven's sake, he behaves more like a party animal than a cop.

It is to Roth's credit that he maintains a degree of tension to what could easily have ended in farce. Fear of infection is contagious, which brings out the true nature of friendship, and these guys fail miserably. The only decent one is the first victim.

If unaccustomed to this particular genre of death-by-numbers horror, or don't realise that Southern rural folk have their own way of doing things that has nothing to do with the law, you'll find Cabin Fever genuinely disturbing. Aficionados of the woodland massacre, who have lived through everything from Evil Dead to Wrong Turn, will be less credulous.

Why didn't they bring bottled water? Why did they bring Bert? Questions, questions... Better than a cynical sigh, or a casual titter, that's for sure.

Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2003
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Cabin Fever packshot
Deadly virus attacks teens in the woods.
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Read more Cabin Fever reviews:

Keith Hennessey Brown ****
Gary Duncan ***

Director: Eli Roth

Writer: Eli Roth, Randy Pearlstein

Starring: Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent, Joey Kern, Arie Verveen, Giuseppe Andrews

Year: 2002

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2003

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