Cabin Fever


Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Cabin Fever
"Having set things up nicely, writer/director Eli Roth then loses the plot."

Five college friends head for the woods for a spot of R&R. You know what happens next - they meet and befriend some well-adjusted locals, sing songs around the campfire and generally have a jolly nice time before heading back home. Not really. This being schlock horror, we know exactly what happens - they do meet some locals but, surprise, surprise, they're a bunch of deranged hillbillies with big guns and bad teeth. Cue lots of screaming, lots of blood and guts, and lots of dead people.

Pretty routine stuff, then? Yes, but at least Cabin Fever does offer one clever twist on the "if you go down to the woods" genre - our college kids are being knocked off not by the dentally-challenged rednecks but by something even more terrifying, a nasty flesh-eating virus that has been brought into the camp by an infected stranger. A sort of Deliverance meets Outbreak.

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So far, not so bad, but having set things up nicely, writer/director Eli Roth then loses the plot. Instead, we get a mish-mash that doesn't know if it's supposed to be played for laughs or shocks, and in the end it turns out to be a messy hybrid of both, with too many questions left unanswered. Where did the virus come from in the first place? Why does no one think to call in the authorities once it starts to spread beyond the woods? And that hillbilly kid with a penchant for biting people's hands? What the hell is that all that about?

It does have its moments, especially when the virus kicks in, and you might want to look away when Marcy (Cerina Vincent) starts shaving her legs in the bath. There's also a stomach-churning scene involving the unfortunate Karen (Jordan Ladd) and a rabid dog. But too many scenes fall flat, or simply don't work. The film is already floundering when Giuseppe Andrews appears as a spaced-out sheriff -- but Andrews' attempt to lighten the mood with his "comic" turn only succeeds in killing it stone dead.

Roth seems happy to play it safe and trot out a series of horror genre staples, as if he's trawled the B-movie archives for inspiration. As a result, characters head off into the night on their own in search of help, armed with nothing more threatening than a torch. Their truck inexplicably breaks down (but works again when the plot demands). Their mobile phones work perfectly, except when they need to use them.

Even the characters themselves are straight out of central casting, the same cardboard cut-outs we've seen a million times before - the babe (Vincent), the boorish jock (James DeBello), the "nice" girl (Ladd). They're bland and they're boring, and we don't give a monkey's what happens to them.

Halfway through this wasted opportunity of a movie, I was already rooting for the virus.

Reviewed on: 27 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 ****
Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

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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