“Yeah, he’s a professor…OF BEING A DOG!”
Main Cast: Rider Strong and Cerina Vincent
Director: Eli Roth
There are two things that always bugged me about the whole Cabin Fever phenomenon, and they’re connected. First, I have so much admiration and respect for writer/director Eli Roth both as a filmmaker and a champion of the horror genre. And second, that respect and admiration has always been somewhat tarnished for me in that I hated this movie the first time I saw it and could never understand what people saw in it.
It’s been over a decade since I first saw this, and have only seen it twice now, but upon a second viewing, I’d like to amend my previous opinion.
I do still think the opening scene with the five college kids and Cerina Vincent’s Marcy character’s delivery of her first few lines of dialogue totally set the movie up for some terrible dialogue and hackneyed deliveries, some of the worst to come out of the first part of that decade. That hasn’t changed. But once the movie gets going, I think it definitely finds a stride and rides it to a very satisfying conclusion.
Cabin Fever is the story of five newly-graduated college students, Paul (Rider Strong, “Boy Meets World”), Marcy (Cerina Vincent, “Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy”), Karen (Jordan Ladd, Grace), Bert (James DeBello, Scary Movie 2), and Jeff (Joey Kern, The Sasquatch Gang), who are renting a cabin in the woods for the week with one goal: to party!
Their first night there, however, they’re accosted by a local hermit whose been infected with a very deadly and aggressive flesh-eating bacteria, which soon begins to tear through the group in very bloody fashion.
That’s basically it. Same old same old in the five college kids in the cabin set-up, but this time the killer isn’t demonic forces or escaped lunatics or mythic beasts. It’s just plain old science. And when you consider the story originated from Roth himself contracting a similar malady, you see just how much more plausible this story is than the other college kids in the woods stories. And that’s where the real horror comes in.
While the plot chugs along at its rapid pace, complimented by Roth’s skill as a director and some excellent cinematography by Scott Kevan (who would later work with Strong again in 2007’s Borderland) and the always-amazing folks at KNB on special effects, there are deep flaws here as well. The aforementioned terrible dialogue sounds so often like it was written as a joke, expletives spit forth like machine gun fire and the gunner’s got a full load. I mean it’s constant. And, believe me, I’m anything but a prude when it comes to the F word, but make it count!
Also, let’s mention the acting. I’m not too proud to admit I liked Vincent on “Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy”. And I’ve liked Jordan Ladd in everything I’ve seen her in, especially the twisted Grace. But they’re all pretty hard to take seriously in this one. Maybe it’s the overload of dirty words, maybe it’s just the overall clunkiness of the dialogue (Marcy: That’s not funny, Bert. / Bert: Yes it is, you fckin slut.), but either way, this was a tough cast to watch. Bad dialogue delivered by bad acting is just about the worst thing for a movie, especially one that’s already got so many things against it. It’s a horror movie in a time when horror wasn’t doing so great. It’s only got $1.5 million budget. It’s Roth’s first directorial gig. I mean, there were so many ways this movie could have gone much more wrong than it did, and the acting and dialogue were doing it NO favors here.
Luckily it did have some people on the other side of the camera who knew just what they were doing and delivered to the best of their abilities. It also didn’t hurt that Cabin Fever spent so much time paying homage to the classics of the genre in the most loving and respectful way possible–the debt owed to Raimi’s Evil Dead being the most evident.
I take back my initial disdain for this movie and can now say I’m a fan of it. It’s not perfect, but what it gets right it get VERY right, and on a second viewing, the pros outweigh the cons by … well, enough. Besides, what other movies show a woman shaving her legs and scraping off her flesh in the process? Awesome stuff!