Directed by Eli Roth
Written by Eli Roth & Randy Pearlstein
Produced by Eli Roth, Lauren Moews, Sam Froelich & Evan Astrowsky
Cinematography by Scott Kevan
Music by Nathan Barr & Angelo Badalamenti
Cast: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent & Joey Kern
2002/92 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD
"Don't fuckin' come near me. Stop! Stop! I don't wanna get sick. I don't want any of us getting' sick, but you two fuckin' fuckers insist on touching her, and now she's bleeding all over both of you guys. So you two can fuckin' rot, but not me. No fuckin' way, not me!" This line which comes from the character of Jeff (Joey Kern) is both the best line in CABIN FEVER and also reveals the underlying feeling within the film. When people come in contact with a terrifying and unknown disease, they get scared - they turn on one another, and look out for no one else but themselves. This is what ultimately happens in CABIN FEVER, which is occurring right now in the real world. With diseases like SARS spreading in Hong Kong, they are literally quarantining themselves. With the core of the film being a topic such as this, one can't help but find the film terrifying, but director Eli Roth uses a nice blend of comedy molded with the terror of the film ensuing with a perfect combination, ultimately producing one of the best horror films of recent years.
CABIN FEVER opens with a white screen as the titles appear. By the time the titles are complete the sound of flies upon rotting flesh, the white background, now a mass of dark blood and black signify right away, the progression of decay in the film. A hermit (Arie Verveen) walks through the woods with a rabbit in hand as his daily catch. He reaches what he thinks is his sleeping dog, but then realizes his dog is dead. As he lifts its body, blood spurts up onto his face, unleashing a sickness of rot to follow.
Finals are complete and five friends are on their way to what they think will be a vacation in the serene countryside at a cabin in the woods. Instead it will be a nightmare they will never forget. Before their final destination the five stop into a store to stock up on supplies. While pulling up, none other than David Hess's song "Road Leads to Nowhere" (LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) is playing in the truck (when I initially heard this song in theatres, I was in disbelief that a modern day horror director would even know about it to put into a film). Once in the store, right away things seem weird, as in all backwoods films of the 70's era. When the store clerk is asked what the rifle is for he casually replies "that's for niggers" giving an uneasy feeling in the characters as well as the viewer, but ultimately this is only a device for a gag at the end of the movie.
Once at the cabin they unload their things, and are quick to get down to business. Marcy (Cerina Vincent), and Jeff (Joey Kern) are swift to make use of their bed, while Paul (Rider Strong) and his childhood friend and love interest, Karen (Jordan Ladd) decide to take a dip. Bert (James DeBell) is left to drink beer and shoot squirrels - "because they're gay". While on his hunt things go terribly wrong when he mistakenly shoots the now rotting hermit as he searches for help in his dazed infested state. Not knowing what to do Bert returns to the cabin without a word about his situation.
A cameo from Eli Roth pops up while the five sit around a fire telling stories of a bowling ally massacre. When it starts to rain Roth's character Grim decides to return to his tent to put his belongings away, and they all decide to retire to the cabin for the time being. They later answer a knock at the door, thinking it's Grim returning but it turns out to be the decomposing hermit seeking help again. Things get a little out of hand once the hermit tries to take their vehicle, vomiting blood all over, and next thing you know they have their truck smashed up and the hermit is left screaming into the night after they accidentally light him on fire. The hermit was the least of their worries, now the group is slowly getting infected for unknown reasons, and one by one they start turning against each other while the flesh eating virus spreads.
I never give into hype. Before seeing the film theatrically, I never really knew much about it. I heard the buzz around, but the initial trailer I saw for the film seemed to me like another one of those forgettable teen movies - of course until I saw the television spots with Peter Jackson boasting its merit. Jackson knows his splatter horror so I decided to see the film, and I was blown away. I imagined it would be enjoyable if PJ liked it, but I was floored from beginning to end. First came the virus/zombie movie 28 DAYS LATER, and then this! It was refreshing to see a different horror film. Especially a horror film by a true fan, containing shitloads of homage's to other horror films - the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE ass shot, THE THING locked in the shed sequences, the DAWN OF THE DEAD screwdriver in the head scene, the FRIDAY THE 13TH canoe shot, and of course the creepy cabin and the deer hit sequence ala EVIL DEAD. The film has so much to offer - from the story to the gore, to the genuinely funny scenes, to the acting and unique characters, to the fantastic score, sound fx and cinematography, with maybe a dash of Troma spirit in there somewhere.
You can relate to the characters one way or another. All Paul wanted was to be at a cabin with this girl he was infatuated with and hopefully get some, but things go horribly wrong. You can identify completely with Jeff for being an asshole by leaving them all to save himself. While he is an asshole at times, it does make sense that in this unknown situation with an infection that literally sheds your skin off, one would act this way. Bert adds some nice comic relief (masturbation story of a dog sticking his tongue up his ass) and of course the beautiful women who were easy on the eyes (even with putrefying flesh) make the film more enjoyable. Other characters add to the charm of the film such as Giuseppe Andrew's portrayal of the whacked out Deputy Winston, whose primary goal was to party (nod to PHANTASM). The 70-something, Old Man Cadwell played by Robert Harris added an authentic depiction of an oddball store clerk one would see at a small town truck stop as well.
At this cabin there's plenty of gore to go around. The now infamous finger bang misfire with disgusting sound effects (straight from Eli Roth's mouth), and the leg shaving scene are always the most memorable. CABIN FEVER has these gore bits and a lot more one wouldn't expect from a theatrically released horror film of today - Jordan Ladd's rancid face after a while of infection, dismemberment, disembowelment, a head explosion, and plenty of squibs.
With CABIN FEVER it has been either a hit or a miss with most people. Some love the film, while others detest it declaring it to not contain one iota of enjoyment for them. Then there are others that fall somewhere in between. This fan definitely falls into the first class. I find the film so captivating that I cannot see it being a miss. The film has 90 minutes of everything I want in a horror film. Of course though, everyone knows opinions are like assholes.
Lions Gate presents this DVD with the theatrical cut of the film (although at several screenings the uncut version was released) which is a huge injustice and disappointment. Apparently the company claims to be fans of CABIN FEVER so trying to figure out the validity of why they would release the film chopped is a hard task. Fans of the film will now have to double dip and eventually pick up the movie again in its uncut state which will inevitably be released by some company. In this version the film is fantastic, and for now it will have to be accepted since it is the only version available. That said, Lions Gate presents CABIN FEVER cut with a 92 minute runtime in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is anamorphic widescreen. The film looks flawless due to the fantastic work of cinematographer Scott Kevan. The opening sequence plays off more washed out than the rest of the film finalizing with dark and vibrant blood defining the theme of the film. The rest of the movie contains some beautiful lingering dolly shots with great shadows and lighting. The skin tones appear bright and fresh when need be, and horrible and pale in disparity. Gore has never looked this great on screen. The audio is presented English Dolby Surround 5.1 and is fantastic. The score and sound fx are so important in this film, and the way they are presented in this 5.1 track is perfect. Even after viewing the film several times, and knowing the jump sequences of the film, the sound is so well executed that one can't help but still find them jarring. Praise goes out to both Nathan Barr and Angelo Badalamenti for creating one of the best scores for a horror movie in years.
Given that Lions Gate cut the movie, Eli Roth wanted to release a packed disc of extra features to kind of make it worth while for the fans to pick up the DVD. First we get five commentaries. You would think it would be a bit much, but overall with each commentary, the information is rarely overlapped and they have little or no speech gaps. Roth tries to keep things interesting throughout each one. First is the 'Directors Commentary' where Roth talks about how he got the film made. This commentary is very interesting and is probably the best of the bunch, especially for aspiring filmmakers. He talks about problems on set such as union shut downs and how he would resubmit the script each year to various companies to have them repeatedly pass. Then of course when the film was released at the Toronto Film Festival there was a bidding war for it. The second is the 'Commentary with the Guys'. All males involved excluding Rider Strong show up to shoot the shit about filming and of course stories of off set bar brawls and such. Even Giuseppe Andrews pops in for a few words, and to end it all, Roth makes a phone call to Old Man Cadwell (Robert Harris). Next up is the 'Commentary with the Girls' which isn't as good as the other two but still serves its purpose. The girls talk about doing their gore scenes and nudity, and Eli Roth puts Jordan Ladd on the spot for not showing her tits in the film and gives her shit for showing them in her next film BROKEN LIZARD'S CLUB DRED. At the end of this one Roth even calls his folks for a few words. Fourth we have the 'Commentary with the Filmmakers' where various producers and the cinematographer talk about how they got the film made and the filmmaking process. I thought this would be the least interesting but it turned out to be just as good as the rest. Roth calls up co-writer Randy Pearlstein to shoot the shit and even his old German film instructor from NYU. Fifthly is a 'Commentary with Ryder Strong' since he apparently talked so much they gave him his own track. This commentary is good as well with some funny stories of BOY MEETS WORLD fan girls swarming him at various times off camera at restaurants and such, as well as 400 lb. truckers being his biggest fans. Moving along with the special features is a section titled 'Chick-Vision' which allows you to view the film with black fingers appearing over the screen during the most frightening scenes mimicking hands over your eyes 'offering a more happier viewing experience' as the DVD puts it. Next is CABIN FEVER BENEATH THE SKIN - a great little making of, which goes though the cool behind the scenes footage you would want to see. Then there is 'Pancakes' which contains some footage of kung-fu Dennis doing what he does best. 'Family Version' is introduced by Roth as being the G or PG rated version of the film. It's about a minute long with happy music and the group driving. Finally we end the extras with three of Roth's stop motion animated shorts, THE ROTTEN FRUIT. The Rotten Fruit are a British band of fruit and are the most popular band in the world. In the tradition of MEET THE FEEBLES, these fruits are fowl mouthed and murder. The shorts are quite comical with some cool fruit gore, and are a great bonus on this disc. The episodes included are: 'Battle of the Bands' where the Rotten Fruit murder another band, 'Snacksters' which is a parody of the whole Napster thing, and 'Room Service' where they trash a hotel room like assholish fruit would do. The official website for the Fruit is: http://www.therottenfruit.com/.
With the supplemental footage finished there are still some easter eggs to hunt for. By clicking on the Lions Gate icon on the main page, the CABIN FEVER trailer can be viewed. For a really cool easter egg go to the 'Scene Selection' menu and wait two minutes. Deputy Winston will appear across the screen on his bike. Do this for each section of chapters and it will unveil a story of Winston eventually screwing virus infected party chicks (porn star Stephanie Swift and Playboy TV's Janelle Perry). At the last section when the blue Eli-bird appears you can press enter and all the clips will play in sequence. The final easter egg is in chapter 24, the hospital sequence. When you get to 24 you just press enter on your remote and you get some goofy footage of Jake the dog.
Overall Lions Gate did a fantastic job with this cut DVD release of CABIN FEVER. But however, Lions Gate outdoes themselves one way, by releasing a DVD packed with extras, but then releases the film cut. They release a cool hologram sleeve for the DVD but decide not to include an insert with the packaging at all! Things just don't add up with this company.
This Film Features:
Review by Chris Mayo. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©