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Cabin Fever (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 40-minute feature with director Eli Roth; 'Beneath the Skin' behind-the-scenes featurette; The Rotten Fruit; 5 separate audio commentaries featuring director, cast and crew; Theatrical trailers.

HORROR has been ‘in the sh***er’ since 1985, according to director, Eli Roth, whose debut feature, Cabin Fever, looks to have redressed that balance in some style.

The film is a gruesome homage to the likes of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which looks destined for instant cult status, while also heralding the arrival of an exciting, and excitable, new film-making talent.

It may not be as frightening, or as shiver-inducing as it would like to think it is, or as much of the hype even suggests, but there is no denying the film is a stylish little horror flick, which retains its own sense of identity, while also providing plenty of references to past classics.

Based on an experience the director had while working on a house farm in the south of Iceland when he was 19, the film centres around five college friends who head for a weekend of drink and decadence in a cabin, deep in the woods, only to find their lives threatened by a flesh-eating virus that has been unleashed by accident.

Hence, the bond which exists between them quickly deteriorates, as the group attempts to find a way out of their predicament, unsafe in the knowledge that one, or all, of them may have already contracted the killer disease.

Added to their woes, is the usual array of rabid dogs, backwoods Neanderthals and dodgy law enforcement officers, who make you wonder why anyone would want to go camping in the woods of America ever again!

Much of the fun in watching Cabin Fever is the relish with which it sets about poking fun at traditional horror conventions, seldom shying away from the opportunity to throw in plenty of in-jokes and visual references, while also keeping things suitably tense throughout.

The horror actually comes from the grim inevitability that most, if not all, of the protagonists will succumb to the virus eventually, as well as a couple of ‘jump-out-of-your-seat’ moments.

But by playing it more towards the laughs, Roth does miss out on the opportunity of creating a genuinely unsettling viewing experience, such as The Blair Witch Project, while the enthusiasm and gusto he injects into proceedings threatens to run riot during the film’s closing moments.

For the most part, though, this is tremendous fun, with Roth displaying a deft touch behind the camera, and drawing notable performances from a largely unknown cast, which includes Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong and Arie Verveen.

The early scenes, in particular, help to build the tension very well, as the virus closes in on the students, and threatens to undermine their happiness; while there is also a great deal of fun to be had in watching them turn on each other, in favour of their own self-preservation and, in certain cases, lustful greed. The horror ‘rule-book’, as exemplified by Scream, is well-adhered to, with the obvious ‘casual sex equals death’ metaphor seldom seeming so applicable.

Things do have a tendency to get a little too off-the-wall late on, as the claustrophobia which dominates early proceedings becomes replaced by the director’s need to get the nearby oddball townfolk involved for its ludicrous finale, but the enthusiasm with which Roth conducts himself in person easily translates to the film, and it’s hard not to go with it.

Cabin Fever has been hailed as a movie to see by the likes of Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino (with whom Roth shares similarities), while it so impressed Donnie Darko director, Richard Kelly, that the two are now working together on a future project.

Horror fans should rush to see it, as should anyone who keeps an eye on hot new talent. Roth is certainly one to watch for the future, so catch him early, before the hype reaches fever pitch.

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