Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fear in the Flesh: Cabin Fever (2002)

Cabin Fever (2002)
Starring: Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong and James DeBello

Eli Roth's debut film, Cabin Fever, was certainly the center of attention during it's release, both theatrically and in festivals. Not only did the film recaptured the B-Movie grindhouse feel of the 70s, it also premised a disturbing take on backwoods horror and introduced a scenario more terrifying than the usual maniac in the woods. (Well, almost)

Five college graduates head off to a rented cabin for a weekend of R&R; some sex here, shooting squirrels there, but a few feet away from them is a hermit infected with an unknown disease that is now eating him alive. It wasn't until nightfall that the hermit tries to find help, and by luck shambles towards the the group.

Skin falling off as his body blisters with blood, the hermit becomes more desperate to get away and find a hospital to treat him, attempting to steal their car in the process. Frightened from getting infected themselves, the teens try to scare him away, only to accidentally set the man on fire and watch him run into the woods ablaze.

Disturbed by the fact they might have just killed an innocent man, the group contemplates their actions, unaware that this is only the tip of the ice berg of what's going down on them soon. One of them somehow gets sick from the water and she's slowly dying. As desperation befalls them, so is the suspicions of the locals; with no one to trust, not even themselves, the kids plung into a maddening situation where no one is safe...or sane.

The slasher premises of this film are absolutely present albeit taken to a new light by having the woods itself be the "killer", sending all sorts of threats from the seen (rednecks, rabid dogs, distrustful deputies) to the unseen (the flesh eating virus, paranoia); it did well to show how a small matter can complicate things, building up the tension to the point it spirals out of control. This is echoed at the fact that the virus hardly killed anyone and instead have these people turn on each other real quickly in a raw and ugly sense of character deterioration.

What makes these claims more approachable is the cast is pretty ordinary looking and in par with the film's tone. Once shit hits the fan, you can feel for them despite being previously one-dimensional  cliches that are common among the horror genre. The rest of the minor characters are your typical backwoods bums and small town folks but I got to hand it to them for bringing more danger than what's to be expected. Their terms in paranoia is definitely a scary bunch, even a bit ignorant a times.

The film also has a clear line of other genre influence from the nerve-wrecking tension and splat-tastic gore of the Evil Dead movies (or at least the first two), to the brooding dangers of an apocalyptic threat from that of zombie films. Roth throws in some killer animal action, redneck horror and a hodgepodge The Shining-inspired  "what the fuck" moment involving a randomly placed rabbit man, resulting to a film that isn't entirely perfect and not for everyone, but it is a better "teen slasher" entry that more or less fits.

It's B-Movie gold, I'll assure you that! The finest of the new millennium and a cheeky devil that slowly made its way to cult standards. It's one movie that goes well with any occasion where you feel the need to see something that goes with yer beer and chips or the classic bowl of popcorn. (save Valentines, Christmas, yer girlfriend's pet cat 's burial and The Fourth of July) A welcome shot for Mr. Roth and the very movie that skyrockets his success into the horror biz.

1 dog found rotting, dead from disease
6 victims brained to death with hammer, mutilated (story)
1 male head found (story)
1 male set ablaze
1 female mauled to bits by a rabid dog
1 dog shot with rifle
1 female bludgeoned to death with shovel
1 male had his head blown off with shotgun
1 male gets a heavy object slinged to his face, killed (shot and burned in some versions)
1 male stabbed on the ear with a screwdriver
1 male impaled with branch
1 male found in half
1 deer shot with shotgun (F-You, Bambi!)
1 male gets a harmonica bashed into his mouth and swallowed, choked to death
1 male shot death by firing squad
Total: 20

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