Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #434
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: September 14, 2002 (TIFF), September 12, 2003 (U.S.)
Sub-Genre: Body Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $30,500,000
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Eli Roth
Producers: Evan Astrowsky, Sam Froelich, Lauren Moews, Eli Roth
Screenplay: Randy Pearlstein, Eli Roth
Special Effects: Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Garrett Immel
Cinematography: Scott Kevan
Score: Angelo Badalamenti, Nathan Barr
Editing: Ryan Folsey
Studios: Black Sky Entertainment
Distributor: Lions Gate Films
Stars: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent, Joey Kern, Arie Verveen, Giuseppe Andrews, Matthew Helms, Eli Roth, Hal Courtney, Robert Harris, Tim Parati, Richard Fullerton, Michael Harding, Shiloh Strong, Darcy Martin
Suggested Audio Candy:
Angelo Badalamenti Red Love
I’ve always been baffled by germophobes. I mean, I get that we should always wash our hands thoroughly after using the lavatory, whether number ones or twos, and should we sneeze on a surface used for food preparation, then I have no problem with running an antibacterial wipe across to keep things sterile. But there is such a thing as overkill. My case in point would be my ex mother-in-law. This daffy mare would run to the sink the moment the cat farted and spent most of her time as a guest in my house spraying enough air freshener to floor a sperm whale. She didn’t seem to grasp the concept that there is such a thing as too clean; how is one’s immune system supposed to learn the tools to fight off bacteria if it doesn’t slum it with the grime from time to time? As for cooties, I’m convinced they are just an invention conjured up to terrify small children. You see, germs really ain’t all that bad.
Having said that, I draw the line at the flesh-eating variety. I don’t often shave, given the fact that my chin never did reach puberty like the rest of me but, should the whiskers grow a tad unruly, I don’t wish to contend with the indignity of peeling off layers of dead skin, before slapping on the balm and doing my very best Kevin McAllister impression. Germs are okay as long as they know their place; that being behind some backward town, in a stream by the woods. Drinking from such fonts of iniquity is asking for trouble, if you ask me, and anyone foolhardy enough to quench themselves in a venison’s B-day deserve every last injustice coming to them. However, when did a crowd of frisky teenagers, backed up to the cheeks with unspent semen, ever listen to reason?
Director Eli Roth dreamed up the concept for Cabin Fever while working at an Icelandic horse farm after contracting the dreaded lurgy from some moldy hay and breaking out in nasty sores, which peeled away every time he shaved. Actually, the sickness started at the tender age of eight, after watching Ridley Scott’s Alien and puking up his stomach lining, so I guess the writing was on the wall even then. The director has amassed something of a cult following over the past decade, adding Hostel Parts I & II and The Green Inferno to his armory. However, when his full-length debut debuted at Toronto in 2002, he can’t have been expecting such an epidemic of praise. After a fierce bidding war, Lions Gate offered a seven-figured sum, and even Peter Jackson wanted to suck his balls.
As a direct result of Jackson’s endorsement and good old-fashioned word of mouth, Cabin Fever opened to excited audiences, with a fairly hefty task on its hands living up to its own hype. Some got what Roth was driving at; whereas others were appalled by inaccurate boasts that it was as “scary as hell fires” and hated on it accordingly. However, general consensus was that of mild disapproval, and it all felt a little unjust. It certainly wasn’t groundbreaking but it had always been his intention to tread the same boards as his predecessors. Like his good pal Quentin Tarantino, Roth is never happier than when he is paying homage to his heroes. All of his inspirations are present and correct, from The Evil Dead, to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deliverance, and Night of The Living Dead. What he does is bake us a tart, stuffing his crust with affectionate nods to the greats, then seasoning with his own secret ingredient. ‘Tis a recipe to celebrate.
Cabin Fever tells the tale of a contaminated reservoir and the five gormless college chums who stumble upon it. Fresh from graduation and, after ignoring the warnings of the local hicks, Paul (Rider Strong), Karen (Jordan Ladd), Bert (James DeBello), Marcy (Cerina Vincent), and Jeff (Joey Kern), set off to their rented cabin in the woods to let off their pent-up frustration and guzzle some six-packs. It all starts innocuously enough until a walking plague dumpster stumbles onto their patch and shares his virus with them. After ingesting the deadly pathogen, it isn’t long before the girls start looking decidedly ropy, and the male/female ratio of 3:2 ceases being an issue.
What Roth manages, to his eternal credit, is that he finds the line between humor and horror and strikes it with great assurance. One moment we are agape as another busty co-ed begins to decay before our very eyes and, the very next, we’re laughing heartily enough for our bladders to reach instant capacity (then washing our hands straight after relieving ourselves if we make it to the restroom in time). As what we are witnessing is so unapologetically horrendous, black comedy provides the ideal counterbalance, and Roth and co-screenwriter Randy Pearlstein inject with more than enough observational wit and situation-based pratfall to keep it from spoiling. There are running gags aplenty plus a wonderfully knowing ending straight out of left field which challenges anyone smug enough to pull out their race card earlier. However, it never once veers into parody.
Then there’s Cerina Vincent. I’m sure Roth was regretting his decision to cast the brunette bombshell as Marcy by the time it came to shooting her infamous bath tub scene. Worried about being typecast after playing a naturist exchange student in the objectionable Not Another Teen Movie, Vincent refused to reveal that nectarinal butt of hers on camera leading to a long-running feud over how many inches of her ass crack were permitted to be paraded. The scene in question is enough to encourage American women to join their European cousins and never shave their legs again; while the sight of a naked Vincent writhing around in the tub is enough to have us breaking out the rubber ducks and offering her our loafers. It is one of a number of well-staged gross out sequences, courtesy of the formidable KNB team.
Among the chief reasons why Cabin Fever still remains fresh after over a decade is the fact that it never becomes predictable. Inevitable yes, we remain fully aware that Roth isn’t ultimately going to leave the kids alone, but how they arrive at Point X is anyone’s guess. He uses a number of camera tricks and douses his screen in a red filter to give his treat its own distinct flavor, while working with hanging dread as opposed to outright fear. My first consideration after watching this was that bath day was upon me, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with watching Marcy making bubbles in the tub (blatant lie as I would definitely share her water). I felt filthy and backed-up with grime and that is credit again to Roth as he is just the right guy for the job.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Howard Berger + Greg Nicotero + Robert Kurtzman x Epidermis-stripping bacteria = One helluva hootenanny. As well as dripping flesh, we are offered many different ingenious ways to skin a cat and Cabin Fever has no problem leaving its stain. As for sins of the flesh, I am wondering how many times I can mention Marcy’s ill-fated scrub down before I come across as some sort of deviant. Three’s the magic number I believe. I’ve got your bathroom mousse right here Cerina; but you may need to help me shake it up some before I squirt.
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