Film Reviews

CABIN FEVER

By • Sep 12th, 2003 •

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The ayahuasca ceremony took place in a heavily wooded, isolated one-room cottage (without electricity) in the woods of Maua, Brazil. My husband and an aide declined to participate and were told to leave. My driver, unbeknownst to me, was instructed to return at 4 A.M. When the ceremony ended at 1 A.M., my guide and I started to walk through the woods. I thought we were to meet up with the car and driver; instead, we were headed off into the pitch black woods back to the hotel.

I couldn’t see one step in front of me. I soon realized I was breaking all my rules of being in the woods I had so loudly and often touted in film reviews: I was wearing flimsy clothes, had no food, and no weapons. The 2-inch candle I took from the ceremony was dripping all over my fingers. I yelled ahead to Angelo: “I deserve to be carried off by a crazed wood killer, eaten by a jungle demon, or bitten by a werewolf. I should be punished for defying The Laws of Wandering Aimlessly in the Woods!”

I was thinking about my foray into strange woods as I watched CABIN FEVER. Finally, a horror film about vicious, mean kids only interested in self-preservation! Five vacationing college kids, cute Karen (Jordan Ladd), sweet Paul (Rider Strong), temptress Marcy (Cerina Vincent – who provides the requisite teen sex and bath nudity), pretty Bert (James DeBello), and obnoxious Jeff (Joey Kern), set out to spend a week in an isolated cabin in the woods. Loudmouth Jeff, who thoughtfully brought along an assault carbine to shoot rabbits, accidentally hits a very sick man (Arie Verveen) spitting blood. He’s been infected with a mysterious, flesh-eating virus. Instead of helping the man when he comes to their cabin door, the teens quickly assume he’s contagious, bludgeon him, and set him on fire. They all simply rationalize away their behavior. Call the police? It is placed under discussion. When the man’s body falls into a reservoir, he infects the drinking water.

Virginal Karen is the first to sip some water. She starts bleeding profusely. There is no sympathy for Karen. She is immediately locked up in a shed and left. Bert is horrified. He wisely dons a towel over his mouth for the rest of the movie. Having destroyed the car themselves when the infected man attempted to get away in it, they are stuck without transportation, no phone, and hillbilly neighbors not receptive to outsiders. Each goes off in pursuit of help, entering other people’s homes and meeting up with uncooperative locals. When they do get the car started, nobody wants to touch or even sit next to Karen. Bert, my personal hero, abandons the group. Whatever it is, it might be airborne.
A wonderful bow to David Lynch appears in the person of Deputy Winston (Giuseppe Andrews). He taunts the audience momentarily sidetracking us. What’s up with him? The splattering horror of blood and oozing sores keeps the teens and us on a frenzied roller coaster ride that is creepy, funny, and malicious. All the characters are smartly drawn. There’s not one idiot among them. Writer/director Eli Roth disrupts the genre by toying with outright racism and gay slurs. He taunts us with the question: What the hell does this ‘nigger’ comment mean?

Roth gives his characters a meanspirited edge. Usually there is one character who cries a lot, does something furiously stupid, and falls down while being pursued by a crazed maniac. The others stop and go back to help. In CABIN FEVER, such noble self-sacrifice would be laughed at. And the end? Roth delivers on all levels a highly enjoyable teen horror movie. If you thought DREAMCATCHER killed the genre, the director has gloriously resurrected it.

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