Cabin Fever review by The Grim Ringler

I can say, without doubt, and without any sense of glibness, Roger Ebert has lost his touch. As a reviewer he has been pretty dope, and was a fan and proponent of some really great movies through the years. Sadly, if you have read his reviews or seen his television reviews of late you’ve seen that, well, he has gone off the deep end. I watched his review of Cabin Fever and was stunned at how two people, two reviewers could miss the whole, I dunno if point is the right word but vibe of this movie. They took it as if it was supposed to be a serious horror film. It isn’t. They almost seemed to get it, sorta, but then they were surprised at some of the weirder aspects of the film and ended up hating it. And ya know what? That’s why I hate movie reviewers, even dopes like me. ‘Cause for some reason we all have blinders on and miss out on some pretty neat movies because they don’t fit into whatever convenient box we have around. Screw that. Too many critics just don’t get horror movies or their fans at all. They don’t get that yeah, Freddy Vs. Jason isn’t a good movie on the level of a Citizen Kane or whatever other example you want to use, but so what? It’s a fun movie that was made for fans. It isn’t a traditional AHHHH, monster! Horror movie, but so what? Who said it had to be? It’s just like Last Action Hero. Great movie that no one liked because they didn’t get it. Didn’t get that it was as much an homage to action films as it was a lampoon of them. Yes, there are some wonderfully original horror films out there (see 28 Days for proof of this) but there are also some very fun, very exciting, very dark horror movies coming out that are still classics in their own rights. Cabin Fever is one such film. A film so odd and grimly funny that’s it’s hard not to love it, warts and all.

Cabin Fever tells the story of five friends on break from college and headed for a relaxing vacation at a cabin they’ve rented in the woods. The group consists of one exceptionally horny couple, a lunk-headed frat-guy type, and two lifelong friends that seem to want to be more with each other but never have pursued it. Their first stop on the way to the cabin is at a small grocery store and it’s here that we start to see that things aren’t going to be quite what they’d expected as one of the men is bitten by a crazy mullet-haired kid and the rest and spooked by the bizarre behavior of the other grocery store inhabitants. Making their way to the cabin afterwards it looks like all shall be well, and as soon as they arrive the co-ed mischief begins – you know the usual ‘let’s get it on’ kinda shenanigans. While the two couples are frolicking (one set clothed, the other not) the frat-guy wannabe wanders off to ‘shoot some squirrels’ and in so doing accidentally shoots a man covered in sores and looking to be in the grips of a flesh-eating virus. Wanting to help but understandably frightened Bert abandons the man after knocking him out with the butt of his gun and makes his way back to the cabin, failing to ever mention the episode to anyone that night. Later that evening, after a wee bit of drinking and merry-making the friends find themselves suddenly under siege from the derelict that Bert had way-laid and though they have pity for the man, their fear of what is eating him alive keeps them from helping him. Seeing this, the man tries to steal the truck they had all come in and in the chaos of trying to get him to leave the truck and the campsite he is set ablaze and left to die in the deeps of the woods. Now, frightened at what they have done and fearful of his mysterious illness, the friends make plans to leave. Which isn’t as easy as they’d hoped as the truck was damaged in the fight with the sick man. The next morning three of the friends set out to find help and report what has happened, not guessing that now one of them carries this virus nor that their surroundings are not as hospitable as they might have thought. And as the virus begins to spread through the group of friends and the chances of their being saved begin to dwindle the true characters of each person will be revealed, as will the horror of the virus.

I loved Cabin Fever. It was a really fun movie for me and is the weird, kitschy kind of horror film that really seems to find a second life when it hits video and us fans can obsess over it. What I am basically saying is that this has cult written all over it. Cabin Fever is obvious kin to Evil Dead but while there is a feel for that early horror classic, never does CF feel as if it is more interested in mimicry than it is simply giving a grand homage. At its heart, this is cut from the same cloth though – a film that is horrific in nature but that is also very funny, presenting its characters with characters and situations that are so bizarre as to give the film a very surreal quality. And yes, if you are not looking to see that kind of movie, or have little appreciation for those movies there is little you will get out of this film. Because while it is actually very well written and acted, it is so strange, and there are so many odd plot curves that if what you wanted was a straight up scary movie you will be disappointed. This is a very similar film to House of 1000 Corpses in that sense, that it’s scary, but what makes it scary is how weird it is. A point in case is the deputy that appears at the cabin to investigate some loud noises the night before, and though he is told by a relatively loose version of what happened, he is more interested in the partying that has been going on and goes to great length to explain what a great party town the area has. To have a character that is so outright funny and just damn weird in a movie about a flesh eating virus makes no sense…unless you take into account that odds are the filmmakers knew that really, deep down, their movie isn’t that original. They are taking what has become a sort of genre staple – troublemaking kids in the woods that have something horrific happen to them – and twisted it in ways to make it new. Instead of a run of the mill horror tread we get a pretty good dissection of this sub-genre, from the hillybilly locals, to the partying kids, to the promiscuous sex, to the drug use, to the false-ending. It’s all there. This is, in all honesty, a pretty astute, and pretty well achieved satire of the horror genre.

The acting is actually pretty good, each actor giving their character a sense and personality all their own, though the male leads are given more to do and say than the two women. And even the background characters, especially the deputy, are carved so well that they linger in the memory and manage to create a surreal backwoods world where you can actually buy into the idea that maybe these outsiders need to be hunted down and killed because they have a disease instead of say, trying to get them medical help. Director Eli Roth does a wonderful job of direction as well, creating a sense of menace in the woods so that when one character says not to go into the woods because there are things out there, you tend to believe them. And bless his heart, never once does he fall into any Sam Raimi woods-roaming cam shots where the camera zooms through the woods wildly. Hooray! I have to say too that the makeup effects are pretty darn effective. Nothing is very technical, all of it very low-tech by the looks, but it’s shot well and none of it is overdone. Most of the gore, of which there is a bit, is really done rather well in that you don’t see nearly as much as you think you do. The film is more bloody than it is gory, the best example of this coming when a character, half-mad with denial, tries to shave her legs though she has the disease, and begins shaving her skin away in chunks. Ick!

The movie is not for everyone though. It is very weird, and even I have to admit that some of the weirdness just feels like the filmmakers were trying to throw every last oddity into the film that they could think of. And it can get tiresome. There are points in the film where I just wanted them to be freaking scary, to come through and make the movie scary and not so damned weird. But, like House of 1000 Corpses I finally gave up what my expectations were and just let the movie take me where it wanted to and in the end I was happier for it. Because even though there are flaws in the film (such as some obvious logical flaws in the actions of the main characters) the film still manages to create a sick giddiness as you watch it.

I hope, hope, hope that people go out to see Cabin Fever, as weird as it is. This will be one of those movies (like 28 Days and House of…) that people will kick themselves for not having seen in theaters when they had the chance. And darn it, this would make a perfect double bill with Freddy Vs. Jason. No, this is not a serious, cerebral horror film. While not mindless, this is not meant to be a though-provoking scare-fest. What it is meant to be is a very fun, very creepy, very weird, very gross movie that doesn’t fail to hold your interest or surprise you with the twists and turns it makes. And I will say this, I saw two movies this weekend, this and Once Upon a Time in Mexico and I liked this one a lot more. See it now, and if it’s still out, again at Halloween.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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