Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Cabin Fever – Review

Cabin Fever – Review

Mar 12, 2011

reviewed by Hallo
directed by Eli Roth, 2002
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Is Cabin Fever a horror movie?  Of course it is; who can deny the graphic and grotesque deterioration of the human body  that lands Eli Roth’s film safely in the sub-category of body horror.  But still we must ask, why?  What makes Cabin Fever different than, let’s say, the 1995 movie Outbreak starring Dennis Hoffman and Morgan Freeman.   Both films concern a deadly outbreak of an unknown virus that rapidly and morbidly disintegrates human flesh.  Whereas most “body horror” films have a clear “evil” persona to them, such as The Fly, or the Cronos device, the alien in The Thing, or even the deranged Dr. Heiter in The Human Centipede, the villain in Cabin Fever is the disease itself (and, of course, the inability of the friends to get along).  No one is coming back from the dead to hunt humans.  No one is masterminding the spread of the disease.  No single character personifies the disastrous results of contracting the virus.  It is simply a survival story of 5 friends in the woods.

Perhaps one answer is that we should re-think whether or not a film like Outbreak is actually a horror movie.  My colleague and team member, Danny, has some ideas as to what constitutes a true horror film, specifically related to body horror, and his review of Black Swan seems to indicate his willingness to place films under the horror category that might not normally be labeled as such.

But it is Roth’s direction and inclusion of vivid imagery amongst a rather normal story that pushes Cabin Fever firmly into the world of horror.  The fact alone that “5 friends venture in the woods for a weekend getaway” is about as cliched horror as you can get.  And Roth would have no problem with me saying as much.  From the outset of Cabin Fever, writer and director Eli Roth was determined to make an “80’s horror film” that steered away from much of the PG-13 garbage that was taking the box-office by storm at the time.  Compromising on violence, over-the-top images, and nudity (although there is not much) was simply not going to happen and the final result is a horror movie that is much more enjoyable that it really should be.

Roth heavily borrows from legendary directors.  The influence of Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and Wes Craven is unmistakable.  The movie attempts to be comedic throughout, but does not capture the same kind of iconic comedy-horror for which the Evil Dead series is so famous.  It could be argued that Cabin Fever also exists as a satire of the 80’s universe of campy horror, but again it doesn’t push that envelope.  It seems that this film is just a fun, gruesome, at times ridiculous horror movie about bad things that happen in the woods.  Perfect!

What I don’t understand is why Roth was so heavily applauded by his colleagues and some reviewers as the next great thing to happen to horror.  Perhaps Roth still will be a major force at the end of his career, but I have a hard time filing that conclusion away from this film.  His 2005 film Hostel was met with mixed reviews, currently holding a 59% rating on RottenTomatoes.com.

So, if you enjoy body horror, funny lines, cliched “go into the woods” setting, and a lot of fun, then I highly recommend Cabin Fever.  But don’t be expecting the next thought-provoking, mind-numbing horror flick.  It just aint that.

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