I vaguely remember seeing Cabin Fever in theaters ten years ago and I know I hated it. Because of this, I was hesitant to watch it again for the site. It seems like less and less that I am surprised in the land of horror, but today I was. I enjoyed this film much more than the first time I saw it and was able to recognize it for what it was - a pretty great film about something truly disturbing. Directed, produced and written by Eli Roth, this film was the highest grossing horror film of 2003 and probably the goriest too. Roth is known for his love of gore and I remember that’s why I hated the film many years ago. I don’t mind gore, though, when used with a truly great horror story and this film achieves that.
Cabin Fever is a somewhat predictable story about a group of five college kids who rent a cabin in the woods for a jolly good time of sex, drugs and drinking. While vacationing, a creepy hermit with an obvious infection winds up floating in the reservoir of drinking water. As you can imagine, this doesn’t exactly purify the water and through a series of events, the kids begin to contract the flesh-eating virus with both terrifying and disgusting results. Don’t mistake the story and characters as the same old, same old, though. Roth skillfully combines a fresh horror - a flesh-eating virus - with horror staples like a cabin in the woods, a group of horny kids, morally questionable decisions and a ton of blood and guts. It even takes place in a backwards town with a police force maintained by a drawling, party-going officer. What I enjoyed most about this film is it built itself on the greatness of horror, paying tribute to movies such as The Evil Dead and Night of the Living Dead and a slew of campy horror films. It was able to do this while still bringing something new to the table. It’s not often in horror that a virus comes to play and this one means business.
If you take away anything from this review, take away this: if you don’t like gory horror, don’t watch it. While not quite at the blood level of The Evil Dead, this film is truly disgusting. While The Evil Dead uses an insane amount of blood and some guts, this film milks the virus cow for all it’s worth. I don’t know a lot about flesh-eating viruses, but if they are like this film portrays them, then it’s freaking gross. Rashes, open sores, oozing wounds, spontaneous vomiting of blood... it’s all there, completed by the ever-present sound of flies circling the infection. And since flesh-eating viruses are indeed real and fatal (except in like three cases ever), this villain is both realistic and scary. If one of my friends became ill with this infection, I would have no clue what to do. Infections, by their very nature, are dirty and spread through uncleanliness. The entire concept makes me shudder and want to vomit, so I know this film is doing something right.
With a realistic villain and a graphic, disgusting portrayal of that villain, Cabin Fever definitely brings something to the horror table. It truly is a skill to base a film around something that isn’t represented by a human or a creature or something with a brain and actions of its own. This villain is unstoppable and spreads fast, with horrible repercussions. If you can stomach the gore, I highly recommend this movie. Rife with horror tributes, any fan of the genre will enjoy it. Watch out horror island - wash your hands, use a condom, don’t drink the water... this virus is deadly.
If you liked Cabin Fever, you might also like Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, [REC] and 28 Days Later.