Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You Give Me Fever: "Cabin Fever" (2003)

A refreshing horror film, one of the best of 2003, after "28 Days Later."

Five college students get done with finals and flee to a cabin in the woods. Thanks to a local hermit, a flesh eating bacteria begins spreading through the countryside. One of the five is infected, and the group turns on each other as the bacteria infects more and more people.

Eli Roth wrote and directed a small horror film with great cinematography and gore effects. The cast is full of familiar faces from film and television, the five main characters are Paul (Rider Strong), Karen (Jordan Ladd), Ben (James DeBello), Marcy (Cerina Vincent), and Jeff (Joey Kern). Giuseppe Andrews plays a young deputy who likes nothing more than a "party," and Arie Verveen is grotesque as the hermit.

Why did I like "Cabin Fever" so much? Simple. Even before watching the behind the scenes documentaries and director interview (something I never do with DVD's), I noticed something. Eli Roth loves horror films. So many directors, writers, and actors consider the horror genre beneath them. Many sit around after their horror film does well in stunned silence, afraid they will be roped into a series of sequels that will do nothing for their careers. An example of the other end of the spectrum would be "Wolf," directed by horror novice Mike Nichols. There is nothing worse than a mainstream director deciding to bring something new to the horror film, and messing it up. Of course, many mainstream actors owe their renown to horror films, and are proud of it- Jamie Lee Curtis and Jack Nicholson, to name two. Then there are some who do not even acknowledge their horror outings, distancing themselves from what they did as if it were hardcore pornography that they need to apologize for in mainstream magazine and primetime TV interviews- Jennifer Aniston and Neve Campbell, to name two.

Which brings me back to "Cabin Fever." If you love horror films, this is your movie. Roth reaches back and pays homage to everything from "Evil Dead" to "Night of the Living Dead," and yet you can tell he does this out of affection and not depletion of ideas. The entire cast is good, Roth somehow works characterization into the film, without offing everyone right away once you get relationship dynamics established. Each character is different, and you do come to care about them before the carnage begins. This is an element I haven't felt this strongly about since "Halloween."

But, the film is not all characterization and deep conversations. It is also funny as hell without trying to be. Regular readers of my reviews (Mom, and you other three people) know I hate humor in horror films unless it is an out and out comedy, or the laughs come naturally, i.e. "Killer Tongue," the best horror film of the last decade. Here, the laughs are natural, and work. I was horrified and giggling at the pig farm scene, the deer hitting scene, and the "party" scene, without having to roll my eyes at some gruesome villains trying to be funny.

"Cabin Fever" is great, and I can see why film festival audiences went nuts for it. (* * * * *) out of five stars.