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Cabin Fever Review

By Shawn McKenzie 09/12/2003

For years filmmakers have been trying to bring back the heyday of the horror genre while bringing it into the future.  One seriously underdone style has been the campy comedy/gorefest which films like Evil Dead 2 and Return of the Living Dead had mastered in the ‘80s.  Scream was close, but it instead started a whole new genre of self-analyzing horror.  It has also been blamed for the watering down of horror movies, with Urban Legends and Valentine being too afraid to go for the gusto.  Director Eli Roth hopes to change all of that with his debut film Cabin Fever.


The movie starts out fairly generic.  Five college kids have just finished their finals, and now they want to blow off some steam in a cabin that they have rented for the week.  Already we are going down the path of the excellent Final Destination 2 and the horrible Wrong Turn.  They are all your typical horror movie characters.  Nice guy Paul (Rider Strong) wants to be more than friends with his girl friend Karen (Jordan Ladd.)  They go to the cabin with boyfriend and girlfriend Jeff and Marcy (Joey Kern and Cerina Vincent.)  Also coming with them is the goofy, beer-swilling fifth wheel Bert (James DeBello.)  They run into the local hillbillies, including a weird blonde kid named Dennis (Matthew Helms) who does karate flips and bites people.  He sits on the porch of a country store owned by Old Man Caldwell (Robert Harris.)  You start thinking we are entering Deliverance territory here, or that these people are going to pull a Texas Chainsaw Massacre later on.  Ah, but here is the twist.  After they arrive at the cabin and begin with the drinking, pot-smoking, and sex, the trouble starts.  While out a squirrel huntin’, Bert runs into a hermit (Arie Verveen) who had gotten infected with a flesh-eating virus by his dog.  The guy just wants Bert to help him, but Bert freaks out and abandons him.  Later, the hermit comes to their cabin and tries to break into their truck.  They end up setting him on fire and killing him, which freaks everyone out.  Unfortunately, they signed their own death warrant, because the hermit dies in the local reservoir, which infects the drinking water.  Karen drinks the water and becomes infected.  They lock her up for safety while they try to get some help (cell phones don’t work out there and the hermit messed up their truck.)  At one point they think they had found help at the house of the Hog Lady (Christy Ward), but she just freaks them out even more.  The local police are no help either, because the one cop they could get out there, Deputy Winston (Giuseppe Andrews), is a party animal that doesn’t care much about his job.  As they each become infected with this virus, things get more and more weird, and very bloody.


This movie is very much a direct descendent of Evil Dead 2.  That movie started off fairly generic and went into a weird, twisted, and very funny place.  Unfortunately, the hero of the movie, Strong’s Paul, is no Bruce Campbell’s Ash.  Despite that, I had to appreciate the movie’s originality.  It is most definitely a horror movie, but there are several places that will make you laugh.  The scenes with Andrews are very funny and kind of surreal at one point.  The thing that distinguishes this movie from other horror movies is that, despite being thrown every horror movie cliché out there, the killers are the victims themselves through the virus and the paranoia that surrounds it.


I should give a word of note about the world behind this film.  The distributor behind this film, Lion’s Gate, bought it at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival.  They paid the highest amount they have ever spent on a movie for this one.  They have also given it the widest release in their short history.  That is how much faith they have in it, and it represents the latest gutsy thing I have seen this studio commit.  I like Lion’s Gate…they are cool, huh huh.  (Any studio who is willing to back a Kevin Smith film the way they did in 1999 with Dogma will get my admiration though.)

I have to admit, I left the press screening for Cabin Fever rolling my eyes.  I thought it was just too silly to have the kid from “Boy Meets World” lead a movie that was literally a bloody mess.  Once I thought about it, I realized that the clichés set up in the beginning of this movie could have lasted until the end, and I could have ended up seeing just another generic horror movie.  That is probably what some critics may have thought of Evil Dead 2 when it came out in the ‘80s.  Once they realized that it was the “Three Stooges” with graphic violence, it became a cult hit.  I did think Roth’s debut was one of the most twisted horror movies I had seen in years.  While I still don’t think it is as good as that classic Sam Raimi masterpiece, I predict cult status for it someday.

Get the soundtrack with a score composed by Angelo Badalamenti and Nathan Barr, and containing songs by various other artists:

Buy this album at

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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