cabin fever | eli roth | randy pearlstein | jordan ladd | rider strong | james debello | comedy | united states | cerina vincent | joey kern | arie verveen | robert harris | hal courtney | drama | infection | virus | matthew helms | richard boone | giuseppe andrews
Film: Cabin Fever
Director: Eli Roth
Writer: Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein
Starring: Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong and James DeBello
This film is one that I first saw in the theaters and it creeped me out. I thought it had an interesting premise. It was one I’m pretty sure certain scenes stuck with me, but hadn’t seen it since then. I did end up giving it a viewing as I was working my way through the list of horror films to review and then with another viewing as it made the Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Challenge series for the 2000s. The synopsis here is five college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.
We begin with a man who has a rabbit. He is a local hermit by the name of Henry (Arie Verveen). He shows his dog, but we see it isn’t moving. He grabs its arm and pulls to reveal it has died. For some reason, blood shoots into his face.
We then shift to a group of college students that are going to the cabin in the woods to party for the weekend like the synopsis states. They are going in a truck that belongs to Jeff (Joey Kern). Not too long after we learn he’s going to law school. Sitting next to him is his girlfriend of Marcy (Cerina Vincent). The backseat is actually in the bed and open on top. Sitting back there is Karen (Jordan Ladd), Paul (Rider Strong) and Bert (James DeBello).
They stop off at a general store before they head to the cabin to get supplies. Paul sits down on a swinging bench seat next to a boy named Dennis (Matthew Helms). There’s something off about him and he freaks out, biting the hand of Paul. The boy’s father is Tommy (Hal Courtney) and he scolds Paul for sitting there. He states he should put up a sign with Jeff stating it could lead to a lawsuit. Paul goes to a creek around back to wash his hand, but we see it isn’t the cleansst. The rest of the group goes inside the store where they meet the eccentric owner of Old Man Cadwell (Robert Harris). He makes a racist comment causing them to hurry along.
The group arrives at the cabin and settles in. Jeff and Marcy go to have sex, getting interrupted by Bert and Paul. That doesn’t stop them though. Bert brought a BB gun and he decides to go squirrel hunting. Paul and Karen go to the lake to swim and he is trying to tell her he has a crush on her. They do kiss, but Paul kills the mood trying figure out what that means.
Brt sees something that is moving in a small ravine and shoots it. It calls making him realize it is a purpose. It turns out he shot Henry. This man is sick and asks if that is Bert’s cabin. He tells him no and then attacks him, causing Henry to flee into the woods.
The group parties at a bonfire where Paul tells a story about murders at a bowling alley. We get to see them play out until they’re interrupted by Grim (Eli Roth). He’s a skateboarder and the group, especially Karen, takes a liking to him since he has marijuana. It is here we learn she isn’t as innocent as we thought. This bothers Paul with how she’s acting. They hear thunder and Grim has to go so the rain doesn’t ruin his stuff.
The group goes inside and later there is a knock at the door. They think it is Grim, but turns out to be Henry. He recognizes Bert and tries to get in. Henry in turn messes with Jeff’s truck. Inside he is coughing up blood and they try to get him out. Bert shoots it with the BB gun. Jeff has a fire poker and Paul a baseball bat. This doesn’t end well with Henry being set on fire, fleeing into the woods.
We eventually see that he ended up in some water, with the pipes leading to the cabin. Karen is drinking the water and she’s not the only one. Whatever he had starts to infect the group. The fear of catching whatever it is leads to paranoia and spreading it even more.
Now as I said, the first time I saw this movie was in the theater. I thought that it had an interesting concept and is loosely based on something that happened to co-writer/director Roth. There are a few types of flesh eating bacteria and viruses out there. It is something that, sorry about the pun, gets under my skin.
It is also interesting to watch this in a pandemic. What really makes this feel realistic is that we don’t know the parameters of the virus and neither do the characters. I love see as the fear sets in what it does to people. Paul is the most level headed and he’s looking at this rationally. We see through him what happens when you push someone past their limits. Karen gets it first and we see what we do to people infected with things. She’s treated like a leper. I can’t completely fault them due to fear. Bert isn’t that far off of Paul, but he’s quite dumb. Marcy isn’t all that bad either. Her issue is that she is short-sighted and quite vain. Jeff is someone is overreacting, but again, they don’t know how it spreads and he’s afraid.
To look at this from the townspeople, I don’t want to come off as callous and make fun of them. I do have to point out, they’re uneducated. Tommy blames someone for things that aren’t their fault, because he’s from a small town. They’re instigators for where things end up. Again, they’re from the small town so they’re not looked at as the villains, the outsiders are. We can really see this in the country currently. How they decide to handle the problem is heartbreaking for sure.
To circle back to something here, it is interesting to look at this during a pandemic. Jeff has the right idea to cover his face until you know how it spreads. We’re see COVID spread, because people believe things that aren’t true. The hospital in this small town isn’t equipped to handle what is happening, so they decide to cover it up and eliminate the problem. The government would be the police and the townspeople here, they’re inept which leads to it actually spreading more. This virus in the movie is quite terrifying.
What I do want to give credit and critique here is some things Roth does. I love that he’s paying homage to things here like Deliverance where we can’t trust these country people. The ending feels quite reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead. They’re playing a song or a cover of a song from The Last House on the Left. Definitely is a vibe of The Evil Dead in there as well. I’m probably missing more, but just some things that I notice. What doesn’t work for me though is some of the humor put in. This probably couldn’t get made today with some of the dialogue. I’m not proud to say this, but how they’re talking is how we would back then. It is cringy now. I also wish some of the comedic aspects were removed here. That does take me out of the movie at times.
From here I’ll take this to the acting. I think for the most part it is actually good. Strong I think is solid in portraying Paul. My only issues with him aren’t to do with his performance, but more how the character is written. He is pervey at times and it makes me dislike him. Ladd is also good with playing the first character of the group to get infected. I feel horrible for her as she is a good person and she’s quite attractive on top of that. DeBello just plays his idiot character so well. He does have a few lines that make me laugh. Again with him, any issues are with the writing. Vincent is also quite attractive and plays this extremely vain character well. Kern plays the jerk to a tee in my opinion. The rest of the cast, including cameos by Courtney, Roth, Giuseppe Andrews and the rest, round this out for what was needed.
I couldn’t get through this without talking about the effects. I didn’t realize that they were done by KNB until this time around. Everything that we get looks to be done practical and it is gross. I like how realistic they make these flesh-eating aspects of the virus look real. How Karen ends up is great. The blood in the movie looks good and does the gore. There is one thing with a harmonic that just felt like they wanted to throw in there, but it isn’t logical. A scene with a deer as well doesn’t look great either. Aside from that, I like what they do with filters and the cinematography.
The last thing to go over briefly is the soundtrack. I’ve already brought it up, but they either use the song, or a cover of it, from The Last House on the Left. It is the Bridge to Nowhere song. It is bleak in that movie and fitting here. Aside from that, the score I really noticed this time and I thought it really did fit the movie for what was needed for sure.
So now with that said, I think that this is really an interesting movie. Watching it during the pandemic really puts things into perspective, especially with the failed ways of handling a disease/virus as an American. I think the acting fits the characters, the effects are really good and I dig the soundtrack. If I have issues, it is how some of the dialogue is written and the comedic tones don’t necessarily work. Regardless, I can see why people were excited for Roth to kick things off with this movie. I find this to be a good movie overall.
My Rating: 8 out of 10