I have to confess I didn?t know much about Cabin Fever by the time I got round to seeing it. Sure I?d heard rumblings months ago about a movie that was going to reinvent and reinvigorate the horror genre, but every movie from Resident Evil to Jeepers Creepers has promised that and failed to deliver. As it turns out Cabin Fever is not that movie either, but rather than being another over-produced, toned-down teen slasher, this is an homage to the good old days of horror, when Hooper, Romero and Raimi ruled the roost. And in it is in this respect that it shines.
Cabin Fever sets its tone straight from the get go. A sinister and cloying opening credit reel brought out memories of those classic and often infamous 70s exploitation horror films that have long since been and gone. It continues this feel throughout its entire running time - from atrocious ?hire-your-friends? acting to the slightly-choppily edited 16mm look of the movie. Now it might seem strange to be praising a movie featuring bad acting and a spend equivalent to a new station wagon. Strangely thought, that?s what makes Cabin Fever work.
Five friends all fitting old school horror conventions; Blonde Jock?, Jock?s Sex-Mad Girlfriend?, Shy Repressed Hero?, Shy Repressed Hero?s Unrequited Love? and Generally Unlikeable Jackass? decide to celebrate the end of high-school in typical old school horror fashion by loading up their truck with beer and going out to a cabin in Remote Redneck County? for a sex, drugs and rock?n?roll session. Naturally things do not go to plan?
During their first day at the cabin Generally Unlikeable Jackass? has an encounter with a man who appears to be a hermit with the world?s worst case of eczema. Later that night the hermit returns to their cabin rather incoherently begging for help while his skin condition gets considerably worse. Realising, in their only intelligent assertion of the movie, that what the hermit has may be more than just a simple case of flaky skin and may in-fact be contagious our group of friends deal out whoop-ass upon him. This probably wasn?t the wisest move, as it sets off a chain reaction of events which sees the group struck down one by one by the mysterious rotting disease struggling to find a way to survive.
So what does Cabin Fever have that most other horror movies of late have that makes it work? First off, it plays it straight. There is no self-referentialism, knowing humour or post-modernism which six years after the freshness of Scream, just grates in more recent movies. Secondly, there is no self-styled man-in-a-mask boogie monster; something too easily relied on these days. Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, it provides two things sadly lacking of late; gratuitous gore and gratuitous T&A. Blood gets spewed, faces chewed and Jock?s Sex-Mad Girlfriend? decides the best way to face certain death is to get nekkid and take a bath! Party on, Garth!!! Who says the R rating?s dead? Nathan Barr?s minimalist score works perfectly in it?s setting and is weirdly but successfully offset by the inclusion of some themes by Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti during certain quieter dramatic scenes.
Cabin Fever isn?t particularly original. It doesn?t bring anything new to the table. In fact, if it had good acting, was made on high-definition film, and lit so that at night everything had a strange blue hue, it probably wouldn?t sit right. But what first-time writer/director Eli Roth has done is to very faithfully relive and recreate a kind of horror movie long dead. His affinity for the genre shows through more strongly than that of other directors who claim to have a love for material they are remaking or paying tribute to. Certain shots recall movies like Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead, while the lo-fi cinematography is reminiscent of Evil Dead. Strangely it all fits together to make an enjoyable package.
If you don?t like low budget horror movies I?d avoid this like the plague of the title, but if like me you have a love for those cheesy old movies of the late 70s/early 80s then settle down and prepare to soak up the nostalgia.