Cabin Fever (2002)

Eli Roth

Rider Strong - Paul
James DeBello - Bert
Cerina Vincent - Marcy
Joey Kern - Jeff
Jordan Ladd - Karen
Giuseppe Andrews - Deputy Winston Olsen
Arie Verveen - The Hermit

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Virus

Running Time - 93 Minutes

In a woodsy area, a hermit (Arie Verveen) finds his dog lying motionless, all bloodied. When the hermit checks on his beloved pet, a burst of blood squirts on the hermit's face. Unknowingly, he has been infected with a flesh eating virus.

Meanwhile, five college buddies - Paul (
Rider Strong), Bert (James DeBello), Karen (Jordan Ladd), Marcy (Cerina Vincent), and Jeff (Joey Kern) - are headed to these very woods for a weekend of anticipated debauchery at some cabin. After some relaxation and partying, the infected hermit [now decomposing and spitting up blood] approaches the group asking for help. Being scared, selfish, and afraid to catch whatever this guy has, the group lock themselves into the cabin refusing to help and accidentally setting him on fire instead.

The group feels various levels of guilt for what they've done to the hermit, but all agree to find help in order to get home safely. Unfortunately, the hermit died in the river - which leads into the water supply. That means the virus has now spread, unfortunately to the water drinking group back at the cabin.


- The gore. Even though CABIN FEVER had about a million dollar budget, KNB EFX Group deliver some memorable shock moments. We get a lot of bloody moments, especially infected people coughing blood all over the place. Plus there's a lot of body horror as well, as the skin of the victims get destroyed by the flesh eating virus. We get decayed faces, ugly rashes all over the body, and the infamous scene where Cerina Vincent shaves her legs to the point that she peels the skin off of them. It's not the goriest film ever, but it does it job to unsettle and make the audience cringe.

- The inspirations/homages. Eli Roth, while writing CABIN FEVER as he was working on  the film PRIVATE PARTS as Howard Stern's human alarm clock, was obviously inspired by some of his favorite horror films from the 1970s and the early 1980s. We get the redneck characters from DELIVERANCE (1972) and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). We get moments going to the cabin in the woods from 1982's THE EVIL DEAD. One of the character's exits is lifted from the profound ending of 1968's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. We have the paranoia theme from 1982's THE THING. We got a dude in a bunny suit that reminded me of that creepy and weird scene from 1980's THE SHINING. Plus, David Hess' song, "Wait for the Rain", from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) can be heard in the film as well. Some may say he's stealing from better films to create this movie, but I think Roth genuinely wanted to pay homage to those classics by creating a modern horror film. It's not original in anyway, but it works for me as he doesn't insult these inspirations at all.

- The acting. Not the greatest in the world, but the cast tries hard and portray their roles quite well in context of the narrative. Rider Strong, formerly of Boy Meets World, does well as Paul. He's no Shawn Hunter here, as he plays the role straight and is quite likeable. He saves the smugness for some of the other actors in the film. Jordan Ladd does well as Karen. She's nice to look at and played the best friend/object of affection believably. James DeBello is pretty damn annoying as Bert, but that's the character for you. Cerina Vincent is the stereotypical slut with a conscience and is good at it. Joey Kern was great as the douchebag, Jeff. Giuseppe Andrews is pretty funny as Deputy Winston, the one cop who would rather party than arrest anyone. Plus we get cameos by Eli Roth as the pothead Justin, Arie Verveen as the infected hermit, and a bunch of actors playing the hilarious redneck characters. I don't mind the cast at all.

- The direction. Eli Roth does a good job directing CABIN FEVER, his first feature film. There's a ton of style here, definitely inspired by his favorite horror films of the 1970s and 1980s. There's a lot of red filters used. We get some nifty POV shots. There's a great atmosphere that keeps you invested, especially when it helps create suspense and tension. The cinematography is cool, as it looks grainy like older horror films. There's a lot to like visually about CABIN FEVER. Roth definitely has a great eye when it comes to horror. You can definitely tell this was directed by a fan.

- The stereotypical characters. While this can normally be a bad thing due to lack of real depth to the main characters, it actually makes CABIN FEVER a fun watch. Each character is an archetype horror character, which is to be expected in the genre, but Roth writes them all well. Paul is the nice guy/best friend who has a crush on his girl-next-door best friend. He's pretty level headed and tries to keep the group together, making him the defacto leader and the one that figures out everything. There are some things he does that are questionable [I'll get to that in the next section], but he's pretty much the typical hero for the most part. Karen is the girl-next-door who wants to be best friends with Paul, but obviously likes him because he's a nice guy. She doesn't come across as a virgin or anything, but she's a regular nice girl. Bert is the annoying friend that you wonder why he's part of your gang, but he's there regardless. He likes to hunt squirrels for some reason and is just plain weird when it comes to social behavior. He's an annoying jerk, but there's always one in these kind of films. Marcy is the nympho who doesn't mind getting around with her male friends, but also happens to have morals as well. In a strange twist, she never turns into a bitch - which is a plus. Jeff is the friend who believes he's on a status higher than the others, making him the pompous prick of the group. His fear of germs and his lack of friendship make him a character you want dead right away.

We also have the funny deputy who just wants to party. Then he have the poor innocent hermit who gets infected. Plus we have the rednecks, especially Dennis. He's the weird kid who loves pancakes and enjoys biting people, which leads to bad results towards the end. I especially love the store clerk who has a strange appreciation towards the black community by calling them the N-word. A strange cast of characters that aren't original in any way, but they're written well enough to be mostly enjoyable.

- The subtext. While CABIN FEVER is a gory horror film on the surface, its strength comes from the themes behind the terror. The fact that the villain isn't a physical one, but rather a virus [a real virus to be exact - the flesh-eating virus] creates more dread and uncertainty, which strengthens the tension the paranoia brings to the film. In fact, the virus may be looked at how ignorant people view the HIV virus and the AIDS epidemic. The word "gay" gets tossed around quite a bit in this film, even by the female characters, as if that's a terrible thing to be a part of. Since AIDS was known as a "gay disease" in its earliest days, this doesn't seem like a bit coincidence. In fact, we're never really sure when CABIN FEVER takes place [even though we know it's modern], which helps create something timeless that could never be dated. When the group starts getting infected, they push each other away because they're afraid to catch what the other has. Since they don't understand what they're dealing with, they lash out at each other and segregate themselves for their own survival, which backfires at all of them when they start dying one by one. HIV and AIDS are still diseases that still make people behave today the same way they did back in the early 1980s, even though we have more knowledge about it. It's kind of ironic that some characters hide the fact that they have the disease, while others realize it during or after sexual relations. I may be reading too much into it, but the paranoia and fear of something that they can't understand or comprehend is something we all face in our every day lives. It's not too far of a stretch to think that Roth was using HIV and AIDS as sort of an inspiration for the subtext here, even though necrotizing fasciitis is a real disease that's scary enough on its own.

- The characters' actions. While I dig the characters, some of what they do makes it somewhat hard to like and/or respect them completely. While Paul does come across as the "hero" of the film, he does do some questionable things. For one, he finds out that his crush, Karen, is infected by fingering her genitals. This wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that Karen is sick on her bed and Paul pretty much takes advantage of her in a subtle form of "rape". I always found this scene disturbing just for that reason alone. Also, Paul deals with Karen's disease by screwing Marcy, who screws Paul because Jeff treats her like crap. If I'm freaked out about the outbreak of some deadly disease, sex is probably the last thing I'm thinking about. That's just me though.

Also, the way the group treats others is pretty unlikeable. They put Karen in a shed, not wanting to deal with her infection to the virus. They also do it, believing that it's contagious and not wanting any part of it. Bert hides the fact he has it, running away and leaving his friends behind. Jeff covers his face and leaves his friends to deal with the virus on their own, disowning each one of them for being sick. Even before all this with the hermit, who only wanted help. I would be freaked out too, but to treat the man the way they did is pretty terrible. They pretty much try to attack him so he can go away. Yet, they don't mind some weird dude with drugs to stay around for a fun time. Nice to see they have common sense.

And the adults are no better. For authority figures and supposed figures of wisdom and experience, they decide to treat the disease by ignoring it and sweeping it under the rug. Or they'd rather party and not worry about it. I get that they had no idea how to deal with it because they were scared and unaware of what the disease was. But common sense says that if they were anywhere near the disease, they're probably gonna get it regardless of being ignorant or not. The characters are great because they all offer something different to the film, but some of their actions just left me scratching my head.

- The uneven tone. It must be hard to make a horror-comedy. It either tries too hard to be both scary and funny, or doesn't try enough and loses one or the other. CABIN FEVER is a little of both actually. There are some seriously funny moments in the movie. There are also some pretty creepy and cringe-worthy scenes as well. But it never manages to balance the two in a way that it's truly successful. CABIN FEVER both wants to be a legitimate R-rated horror flick, as well as a satire on horror cliches and societal issues. For a while, there's a ton of dread going on amongst the characters. Then all of a sudden, a really weird character will show up to add humor. If the film was tongue-in-cheek, this wouldn't be a problem. But the characters act seriously to their situation, which is why the audience takes it seriously. Adding bizarre characters to lighten the mood comes across as silly and distracting.

The ending itself pretty much says it all. I get why it's there, but it's just so absurd and silly that you wonder how the first 80 minutes led to that. CABIN FEVER has more slapstick and gags than necessary. I think if the humor was more natural in context to the horror, it would have worked a lot better. Instead, the film ends up being schizophrenic. I know a lot of people who are turned off by this film just for this reason alone.


- A kid named Dennis bit Paul's hand. The show was Boy Meets World, not Boy Eats World...

- Bert tried to shoplift a Snickers bar. I guess he was feeling like Winona Rider rather than himself.

- Bert likes to shoot squirrels. The guy is obviously nuts.

- One time, Bert's dog licked his balls and ass while he masturbated. Self love can be a bitch sometimes...

- The group exiled Karen after she got infected. It sucks not having good health insurance.

- Marcie skinned herself while shaving her legs. That Venus razor is definitely cutting edge technology.

- A redneck received a screwdriver to the head. Just be glad he wasn't a zombie. They really hate that.


CABIN FEVER is a good splatter flick that thrives on ambition and a love for the genre. The narrative and the subtext it uses are effective. The acting is good. The direction is solid. And the gore will make you cringe. For a low budget feature, it's an impressive watch. Too bad it tries to be too clever for its own good, pretty much destroying the great atmosphere the serious moments are trying to build [that final act almost falls apart because of it]. Still, it showed that Eli Roth made his stamp in the horror genre whether fans liked it or not. And after 10 years, the film still holds up.

3 Howls Outta 4


  1. Terrific write-up, Fred!
    I'm not a big fan of Eli Roth but this is definitely his best and most entertaining movie - though for whatever reason, I'm one of the few who enjoyed the sequel more o_O

  2. Thank you, sir. He's not my favorite either, but I do think this is his most enjoyable film - although I feel HOSTEL has a better grasp on its tone. As for the sequel, that review will probably be up next week. And unfortunately, I'm in the majority when it comes to that movie...

  3. I'm a big fan of this one & think it is by far his best film. Nice review, bro!


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