Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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 Raimis
The Evil Dead, and John Carpenters 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
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
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
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 films 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 directors 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 its 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.