Imagine the basic Texas Chainsaw/Blair Witch formula, where five college kids go out into the woods for a vacation in an old cabin, meeting a few eccentric townies along the way and ending up with less than pleasant results. But this time there’s no talk about, “Did you hear the old story of what happened here?” or “Look out, some crazy stuff has happened here before!” That’s because the killer is impossible to see, and almost impossible to avoid.
After brilliantly intense opening credits, Cabin Fever starts with a man in the woods finding his dog is dead. When he investigates the corpse he gets blood all over himself. Cut to five college students bursting out of school, ready for a fun trip out to the woods staying in an old cabin. After running into a hand-biting kid and some weird older men in a convenience store, they settle down in the cabin and have a campfire, go swimming, and one particularly dim kid goes squirrel hunting with a BB gun. He accidentally shoots someone, who we see is the man whose dog died, and who is now a bloody mess with some sort of flesh-eating disease. Terrified, the kid runs back to the cabin, but the man follows him and disrupts the area near the cabin, battering and spewing blood all over their car before getting chased away with a fire. So the kids try to call the police, walk through the woods searching for help, and try to fix and clean up the car. But one by one they break out in a disgusting, bloody, rash disease, and there appears to be no way to stop it…
Until the very end of the movie, we don’t know how the kids get the disease. That makes Cabin Fever all the more terrifying, for every time someone touches someone who’s infected, drinks the local water, or gets blood on them we can only cringe and wait to see if their flesh will start decaying. The people start to change before our very eyes, physically and horribly, but also as they get panic stricken they begin to change their behavior, taking desperate measures just to stay alive, sometimes irrationally. It’s scary enough for suspense fans, gory enough for slasher fans, and wonderfully shot and written by Eli Roth, David Lynch’s former researcher who makes his debut, as well as an amusing cameo. Roth benefits from frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti’s score, and the viewer benefits from Roth’s storytelling skills and pull-no-punches direction. This is for horror fans only, but they will find this one of the best horror movies of the year.
It should be noted that Lion’s Gate Picture, which distributed Cabin Fever, is also responsible for this year’s debuts of horror writer/directors Lucky McKee and Rob Zombie, and appears to have become a breeding ground for new horror classics. Fans of that genre shouldn’t miss Cabin Fever.
Parents should know that this film contains foul language, two graphic sex scenes, drug use, and R-rated gore and violence. There is also a racial slur that is given an interesting twist at the end.
Most similar horror films have a scene where one of the characters tells a scary story similar to what’s about to happen, to set the stage. Cabin Fever tweaks that convention by having someone tell a story about a bowling-alley murderer that has little to do with the movie. Families may want to discuss why that’s there, the role of the convenience store workers and the local deputy, and the enduring appeal of horror stories, going back to the days when telling stories around the campfire was the primary form of entertainment.
People who enjoy this movie might want to try the original gory vacation tale The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the contagious disease-related Outbreak.