Cabin Fever
review by Gregory Avery, 12 September 2003

Cabin Fever acts as if its characters deserve the horrible ends they meet -- the unspoken ode of all those slasher movies back in the 1980s -- and, worse, it doesn't seem to care. Which, of course, begs the question as to why we should.

A group of five college-aged kids go on a vacation break to a cabin located in a wooded, lakeside area (actually, the wooded, lakeside North Carolina countryside), where they conspire to doing nothing more than drink, roast marshmallows, and engage in some acts of rutting. Within forty-eight hours after their arrival, though, they have been exposed to what the movie will only refer to as a "flesh-eating disease", but which looks like one of the viruses from Richard Preston's book The Hot Zone which is capable of liquefying the human body with record speed. Finding themselves in the middle of a pandemic, the kids quickly turn against each other before finally being annihilated altogether.

The filmmakers (who made this film at about the same time as Danny Boyle's similar 28 Days Later) set out to make first and foremost a good, scary movie, and they succeed in creating ordinary settings and situations which fill up with a steady sense of unease, laced with doses of black humor -- strangely emptied-out landscapes, a little girl who is continually addressed as "Dennis" and who will bite anybody foolhardy enough to get within striking distance of her. What the filmmakers fail to do is give us anything new. There are plenty of lifts from other movies (most noticeably, the ending of Night of the Living Dead, only, in Romero's movie, it meant something and wasn't used, as it is here, as a toss-off), but the blanket nihilism just seems like a callous pose as well as an excuse against coming up with anything creative or inspired -- some of the characters in the movie act strangely as if they'd just contracted the highly contagious disease, addling their senses, but it turns out they haven't (which then makes us wonder from what viewpoint we're supposed to be seeing the action from). Also, some of the things that the film asks us to giggle or chortle over are the kinds of things only a cretin would laugh at (which then makes us feel as if the film's playing-down to us as if we were slobs) 

The acting is generally good, especially considering that large chunks of the dialogue are made up of conjugations of the f-word, and there are some amusing moments from Giuseppe Andrews as a police deputy who, like somebody sneaking a joint in class, says that he knows where all the best party action is occurring at in the vicinity. As for the movie, though, what starts out as engaging ends up as flip, glib, and cynical -- scary, but it ends up leaving you down.

Directed by:
Eli Roth

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

Written by:
Randy Pearlstein 
Eli Roth

Rated:
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult
guardian.

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