Cabin Fever (2002)

This really hasn’t aged particularly well and increasingly feels like less of an original horror vision* than a gleeful mash-up of every horror movie Eli Roth loved in his teens. There’s very little finesse here. The stupid excess of homophobic and racial slurs in service of juvenile laughs will certainly hinder this in a today’s climate but it does make it a weird, if embarrassing, time capsule of what dumb American teens talked like in the early 2000s. Thank god those days are over.

I saw Cabin Fever a lot back in the day so I will always see it in a fond light but even I can admit the actual film may not really warrant much attention as time goes on. Luckily there’s enough utterly bizarre tonal shifts and bug-out supporting characters to ensure every revisit contains some rewards. I’m a big fan of Deputy Winston and “pancakes!”. Also the flesh-eating disease is a great anchor for a cabin-in-the-woods horror flick, though Roth barely scratches the surface of its potential by the time things get going. Nevertheless, he does manage to get in his fair share of effective gore gags, heightened no doubt by the assistance of two thirds of KNB effects in the make-up department. The fingering fake-out (there’s a sentence I never expected to write today) is still a terrific bit, and the way things escalate so aggressively into either sex or violence is, frankly, very funny. It’s so dumb, but at least it’s self-aware and entertaining.

Had Roth taken more ownership and done his own sequel, I really think we could have seen an excellent Cabin Fever 2. As Hostel Part II shows, the dude really gets into the swing of things once he can play in a sandbox without having to build it first. This probably won’t be the last time I see this in my lifetime.

*Not that Cabin Fever ever really felt like a total breath of fresh air but Roth being so blatant about his influences and playfully tweaking them to his own lurid sensibility did give genre-heads like me a jolt of giddiness back in the day. Never forget that Quentin Tarantino branded Roth “the future of American horror” in the wake of this film’s release.

Watched on blu-ray

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