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Cabin Fever (15)



Review by: Graeme Kay| Rating: One

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.

HAVING just finished their final college exams, cool, stylish Jeff (Joey Kern), sensitive and shy Paul (Rider Strong), sexy cheerleader Karen (Jordan Ladd), foxy bitch Marcy (Cerena Vincent) and unabashed lunkhead Bert (James DeBello), set off for a short break at a cabin in the backwoods of some unspecified southern US state.

On arriving at their destination, the ill-fated five are almost immediately shaken out of their rural idyll by a visit from an itinerent forest dweller, who is suffering from a nasty skin complaint and asking for their help. But scared by his appearance the gang chase him off.

It is not long, however, before Karen begins to display similar symptoms to their uninvited guest, and starts to fall apart, literally.

This is the cue for a riot of gore and black comedy as the remaining four friends, unsure about what it is that is ravaging Karen, but certain that it threatens to kill them all, make increasingly frenzied attempts to escape from their holiday home from hell.

Before making this film, director Eli Roth said that he studied all his favourite horror films, from seminal directors such as Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) and Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), John Carpenter (The Thing), in order to get a feel for how to structure a classic gore-fest.

The result is a film that, while looking and sounding exactly right, in terms of retro-70s horror, just isn’t scary. Principally because while Roth has got the gallows humour and the grisly special effects off to a tee, he hasn’t quite got it right on the story-telling front.

While there is an abundance of blood and guts, and some sharp observation about the way people behave when confronted by the unknown, there is very little real psychological tension: the horror comes mainly from a visual horror of watching the cast disintegrate physically, rather than cerebral angle of having them stalked by a malevolent presence (a la The Blair Witch Project).

The originality of casting a virus as the villain of the piece is at the root of this failing, because while we all know that flesh-eating organisms such as necrotising fascitis, or in this case, the more virulent fotobacterum damsela, are horrendous, a virus is unlikely to jump out of a wardrobe with an axe.

Thus, the viewer is never forced to put himself in the position of one who is being pursued.

Eli Roth obviously has it in him to make a great horror film. But this isn’t it.

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