Cabin Fever (2003)
No matter how much I try, Sometimes I still have a hard time
withstanding hype. After months and months of rave reviews
and film fest coverage, I wanted to see Cabin Fever...badly!
All the hype and raving had my expectations sky high,
and it was all I could do to get them down to an objective
level. So I finally saw Cabin Fever. Let's just say
it's not exactly what I expected.
In their last hurrah after college, friends Jeff, Karen,
Paul, Marcy and Bert embark on a vacation to a remote cabin
to enjoy their last days of carefree sex and boozing before
entering the real world. Then somebody gets sick. And I'm
not talking about a cold (cough, cough). It's a lovely little
disease called Necrotising Fasciitis, the flesh eating
strep. It's real, and it devours over 1500 victims annually
in the United States alone, releasing toxins in the body
that can eat through a human in less than a day. That's
gotta suck! But what a cool premise for a movie!
The premise is indeed cool, and ripe for a horror movie. Cabin
Fever takes an original, and frighteningly real, concept
and runs with it. It runs fast...in a whole lot of directions!
It goes in so many directions; by the end of the movie you'll
be amused, confused, horrified, and maybe even a little sick
to your stomach. It's disappointing though, that none of these
reactions are really pounded home to the audience.
My main problem with the film is that it tries to be everything,
but fails to really excel at much of it. Don't get me wrong,
I enjoy horror films infused with a bit of comedy. Movies
like Evil Dead 2 and more recently, Undead,
pull it off perfectly. Directory Eli Roth said, "I set
out to make a film that would be a throwback to the late 70's/early
80's heyday of horror. This would not be a comedy, but instead
a scary movie, one that would use humor to both release tension
and draw people into the film." A good idea, but too
much of that comedy killed a great deal of the tension that
the film was trying to mount. It's when laughing spills over
to scenes that aren't supposed to be funny...that's where
Cabin Fever gets lost in the woods. Perhaps sitting
at home, it would not be as apparent, but it was clear to
me viewing it with a full audience. The laughs were almost
non-stop for the second half of the movie. The film has some
genuinely frightening scenes, but they just don't seem scary,
and it directly correlates to the high humor content. A prime
example of this is when the redneck kid with a mullet goes
kung-fu crazy. While it may have had a place earlier in the
movie, it completely killed the mood and tension of the film
at the point.
James Debello does a great job playing the stereotypical "jock",
Bert. He's the outlet for much of the comedy, and therefore
gets most of the funny lines. Interestingly enough, Bert is
the member of the group that's perceived as the unintelligent,
immature one. Though when things go bad, he's really the only
one that reacts realistically and intelligently. For me, that
made him one of the two characters in which I actually cared
whether or not his skin got eaten off or not. The other of
the two is Paul (Rider Strong). He's the likeable guy that's
been friends with Karen (Jordan Ladd) ever since they were
kids, and this getaway is when he plans to finally tell her
how he really feels about her. The arrogant Jeff (Joey Kern)
and the nympho Marcy (Cerina Vincent) are less-than-meaty
characters that are not particularly noteworthy. While none
of the characters are exceedingly deep or unique, I have no
beef with the acting. Roth and Randy Pearlstein gave them
a clever screenplay to work with and it's all done very well.
James Debello really deserves credit for a superb job and
for standing out from the rest. Giuseppe Andrews also puts
in an amusing performance as Deputy Winston, the dorky town
cop who's more interested in parties than doing his job.
Cabin Fever had promised us gore, but didn't bring
the house like I thought it would. There's a healthy dose
of rotting flesh and some vomiting blood, but that's about
it. I will say that knowing that the disease is real and
that it's portrayed completely accurately makes the scenes
quite unnerving and eye cringing. People that have actually
contracted the disease attest to the reality of the make-up
effects. So it's not the hardcore display I had anticipated
but it was effective and made for some seat-writhing moments.
Despite it not living up to its potential, Cabin Fever
still has a lot going for it. It's obvious that Eli Roth
made "his" movie, not kowtowing to studios and
really making it the way he wanted to...as strange as that
vision may have been. It's a worthy addition to the genre
in terms of its originality, a nice screenplay, and Eli
Roth's directorial passion. The subject matter of the flesh-eating
disease was very cool horror concept, though its originality
was lost a bit amid the cookie-cutter stereotypes and the
homages to various films, like Evil Dead and
Night of the Living Dead. While the movie didn't
quite live up to the hype, I think the skills of Eli Roth
are evident, and I see a very bright future in store for
him. I, for one, look forward to his next effort.
Only released in a widescreen (2.35:1 anamorphic) edition
(screw full screen!), Cabin Fever sports a hologram
cover over top the case. How limited are these hologram
versions? Who knows, probably not very.
Commentaries are the bulk of extras included in the DVD,
as there are five of them. And yes, I did listen to them
all. The first one is director Eli Roth only. It's quite
different than your average DVD commentary. It's not a shot-for-shot
running account of the scenes on the screen, it's more like
a verbal documentary on Roth's background in film and the
entire grueling process of getting the film made. Roth's
love for horror almost oozes right out of the DVD. Cabin
Fever may not have been quite what I had hoped, but
Roth's talent and passion are off the charts, and I strongly
believe that history will place him among the great horror
directors when his career is over. The wealth of filmmaking
advice and knowledge in this commentary make it essential
listening for any aspiring directors, producers, or even
The second commentary is with the guys on the film. Rider
Strong is absent, but that's because he has his own to himself.
Jimmy Debello makes this by far the funniest of the five.
He's hilarious, and some of the stories had me laughing
my ass off. Roth also talks with Joey Kern, Giuseppe Andrews,
and some other minor characters.all male.
The third commentary is with the girls (mainly Jordan Ladd
and Cerina Vincent), and it's merely okay. The stories aren't
as funny as the guys, but can still hold your interest.
The best part was when Roth calls up his parents at the
end to get their take on the film. The fourth is my least
favorite, as Roth chats with the producers & cinematographer,
co-writer Randy Pearlstein, some guys at Lions Gate, and
his old NYU film professor. By the last commentary with
Rider Strong, I was a bit burnt out on the film, but was
the interesting nonetheless. The behind-the-scenes stuff
took the form of the documentary "Beneath the Skin". At
about 29 minutes long, it was a thorough dissection of the
entire film, encompassing the script, the actors, music,
effects, the killer dog, and the "look" of the film. They
hit it all with interviews from pretty much everybody involved.
Great stuff, and my only wish is that they could have gotten
some stuff out of Giuseppe Andrews for it. He stole every
scene he was in.
Probably the best extras on the DVD are the "Rotten Fruit" claymation shorts by Eli Roth and Noah Belson. The Rotten Fruit can only be described as a band of rude, strung-out, foul-mouthed British fruit who trash hotel rooms, murder their competition, and take violent action against those who steal their songs off the internet. Three shorts that run about 3 minutes each are included.
Guys, you can now talk your girlfriends or dates to watch
a gory horror film with you. With Chick-Vision™, every
scary scene will place a silhouette of a pair of hands on
the screen to simulate covering your face, essentially blocking
out the offending scene. Interesting addition. There's also
a family friendly version of the film included. So if you're
a concerned parent, you'll have no problem letting your
kids watch Cabin Fever. Get the family together and
enjoy...all 1 minute of the new cut. Clever. Last, and certainly
least, is the audition tape of Dennis, the mullet kid. It's
a display of his karate moves set to the Electric Six song
"Gay Bar". Fairly pointless.
I wish they could have added some outtakes, but all in all, a solid DVD with some of the best commentary I've listened to. Easter eggs: In each page of the "scene selections", wait through two cycles of the clips and you'll be treated to more Deputy Winston. Pay attention to 19-21 in particular. Click the Lions Gate logo on the main screen for the trailer. And while watching the film, clicking ENTER at the beginning of the hospital scene will give you a "doggie" treat.
(Out of 5)
(Out of 5)
|September 12 2003
October 10 2003 (UK)
|January 20 2004
|September 13 2003
|DEAD KEV'S ADVICE
|It's a fun & bizarre movie that's worth some laughs
and it certainly has its moments of brilliance, but it
could have been so much more. Go see it for the laughs
and have some bloody fun.
|1. When a member of your group gets afflicted with a
flesh-eating disease, don't waste time. Run, walk, or
drive to a hospital...quick.
2. When you spot a body floating in a reservoir and
you're pressed for time...don't poke at it with a
|Deer Path Films, Black Sky Entertainment,
Down Home Entertainment, Tonic Films
|COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
|Cabin Fever was filmed on location in North
Carolina at Camp Raven Knob, a Boy Scout Camp. Shooting
took place in the Fall of 2001 and while the camp
was not open as a summer camp, many school groups
would attend the camp on day trips. The camp director
would bring groups of kids by the set several times
a day, who invariably always showed up when one of
the actors was covered head to toe in blood, dying
a horrible, obscenity-laden death.
|Actor Robert Harris, who plays Old Man Cadwell,
makes his film debut in Cabin Fever at age
72, after many years in the theater. As a young child,
Robert entertained confederate troops with his singing
and dancing at a retirement home in Georgia. He claims
this was the original U.S.O. tour.
|Survivors of the flesh-eating virus have seen the
special effects make-up in the film and maintain that
it's 100% accurate.
|In the hospital scene, producer Sam Froelich plays
Doctor #2, whose coat reads "Dr. P. Frink"
in homage to the character Professor Frink on The
Simpsons. The Simpsons is a favorite show of Sam Froelich
and Eli Roth.
|Cabin Fever was filmed in 24 days, with the
crew shooting anywhere from 25-40 setups a day. Most
of these shots involved special effects, make-up and
blood. Prior to Cabin Fever, the most setups cinematographer
Scott Kevan had ever done was 14 in one day.
|Over 1,500 people annually contract the flesh eating
strep, narcotizing fasciitis in the United
States alone. In August of 2002, there were three
separate cases of fishermen in Massachusetts, who
contracted fotobacterum damsela, a fast and more deadly
form of the flesh-eating virus that lives in the water.
No one knows how the viruses are contracted, nor how
they can eat through your body in less than a day.
|Cabin Fever is the directorial debut of Eli
Roth, a protégé of filmmaker David Lynch.
|Interviews with Eli Roth -About.com
|Interviews with Rider Strong -
IGN.com & Diabolical
with Jordan Ladd - The Movie Insider
with Joey Kerns - About.com
with Cerina Vincent - About.com
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