Review by Michael Jacobson
Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Joey Kern, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello
Director: Eli Roth
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Lions Gate
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: January 20, 2004
want to go home…”
Roth certainly knows his horror…he wears his love for the genre on his sleeve.
Listening to him talk about his favorite films and how they affected and
molded the course of his life is enough to make you believe he has a really
great, groundbreaking and influential horror film inside him somewhere.
Unfortunately, Cabin Fever isn’t quite it.
don’t have a problem with a filmmaker showing homage to the movies that
influenced him, but when I start yearning for THOSE films while watching HIS,
something’s gone wrong. Cabin
Fever is part The Thing, 28 Days Later, Night of the Living Dead, Cujo,
Deliverance and more…and I kept wishing I was watching one of those
breakdown: five college students
(three guys, two gals) head to a cabin they’ve rented in the woods to
celebrate post-exam life. On the
way there, they meet some strange southern stereotypes at a store (one of whom
utters a bold bit of needless offense, resolved at the end of the film in a way
that’s even MORE offensive), which is supposed to either set up a creepy
atmosphere or generate some laughs. Awkwardly,
it does neither.
at the cabin, they have sex, drink beers, and meet up with two people:
one has a vicious dog and lots of weed, the other has some sort of
horrible disease that makes him vomit and ooze blood.
Understandably freaked out by the guy, the kids try to chase him away
from their cabin and their truck, but inadvertently set fire to him and kill him
(hey, guys…I know what YOU did last summer!!).
disease is contagious, and soon the quintet is eyeing one another to see who has
it. They start avoiding each other
like the plague (no pun intended). But
of course, they start succumbing to the illness in increasingly gruesome ways.
My favorite is the girl who shaves her leg only to take off a bit more
than some unwanted hair…ouch!!
basic premise is punctuated here and there by bits like another southern
stereotype for a deputy (“Hey, party man!”) and the continual re-appearance
of that stupid dog, who seems to serve no purpose but to add a bit of action to
more lifeless scenes.
has become something akin to jazz in that it should be one of the most open and
imaginative of the genres, but suffers stagnation because of the lack of
something original breathing fresh life into it. The Blair Witch Project was an exception of doing
something out of the norm and being effective for it, but for most modern horror
pictures, we know what to expect. The
question isn’t whether or not it’s original, just whether or not it’s done
tries to juggle bits of humor in with his singularly grotesque vision, and it
never works. Films that do that
well like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II or Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive make
it look easier than it really is, I suppose.
Both of those movies blended comedy with gore, but in Cabin Fever, the
visuals and the premise are a little to unsettling to offset with cheap laughs.
admired the passion for his art and his fearlessness in his style, but like a
lot of recent horror offerings, Roth’s film doesn’t really know how to
scare. It knows how to startle and
how to repulse, but those aren’t the same thing.
The uninitiated may be shocked, and possibly even truly horrified, but
the veterans will understand that there’s not much envelope left to push in
the gore genre.
shows some promise in the margins, and I maintain that he still has a better
horror film in his future. Hopefully
he’s gotten this kind of mayhem out of his system, and his next project will
show a more mature artist searching his soul and finding something REALLY scary.
is a kickin’ anamorphic transfer from Lions Gate, one that delivers every
gruesome visual with unapologetic flair. The
picture boasts a lot of dark scenes, but no grain or distortion mar the images.
Colors are well presented and detail is strong; only a couple of scenes
seem to be a little over saturated. High
plenty of dynamic range here with a number of “boom-scares” along the way.
The .1 channel keeps the lower end of the music score rumbling, and the
rear stage opens up to add atmospheric effect.
Signals are balanced and clear, and dialogue (and screams) come through
are five, count ‘em, FIVE commentary tracks to choose from.
You can listen to Eli Roth on his own, you can listen to the girls in the
cast, or the guys, or the filmmakers as a team.
Rider Strong gets his own commentary because, as the menu screen
explains, he couldn’t shut up. The
cast commentaries are kind of fun, but Roth talks openly about his background
and his love of horror films, so it’s probably the best listen.
production featurette brings us closer to the cast and examines the effects,
make-up, effects and more. There
are three stop motion animated shorts by Roth featuring “The Rotten Fruit”,
a raunchily outrageous rock band of fruits and vegetables.
Three features are jokes: activate
“Chick Vision”, and a pair of hands actually cover up the screen during the
horrible moments to simulate a girl covering her eyes (hey, they said it, not
me). The “family friendly”
version takes everything offensive or disturbing out of the film, which then
runs maybe one minute. Finally, “pancakes” is a short video that makes no sense
about a sequence in the film that made no sense.
Rounding out are some trailers and a rather cool and disturbing animated