Movie Review: ‘Cabin Fever’

I haven’t seen Eli Roth’s “Cabin Fever” since shortly after it came out in 2002, and I remember shockingly little of what happens in it. What I do recall is that it was a relatively fun, self-aware, and, at the time, refreshing tweak of some of horror’s hoariest cliches. It was half comedy, half gorefest, and if it wasn’t exactly a masterpiece, it at least heralded Roth as a director to keep an eye on.

The problem with this remake, directed by Travis Zariwny (credited here as “Travis Z,” presumably to save his family embarrassment), is not that it despoils the legacy of the original—horror film history has a way of repeating itself, first as novelty then as farce, and far greater movies than “Cabin Fever” have received the remake treatment, coming out no worse for the wear—the problem is that it is a joyless, overlong slog, witless, pointless, and unaccomplished in every way. Only belatedly—in the last twenty minutes or so—does the film even attempt to justify its own existence, through sheer gruesomeness, and while this grotesqueness is not nearly enough to make up for the 80 minutes of pure tedium that precedes it, it is the only time anyone involved in this production seemed to be having any fun.

The paper-thin story concerns a group of five post-adolescent cardboard cut-outs jaunting off to a remote cabin for a week of boozing and intercourse, which is interrupted by a contagious virus that makes its victims slowly decompose into a pile of blood. These characters are distinguished by their total lack of distinguishing factors; they are almost exceptional in how completely unexceptional they are. They are here simply to screw, behave stupidly, and die. But they do too little of first, far too much of the second, and it takes a seeming eternity for them to do the third. Basically, the actors mill about, half-heartedly reciting lousy dialogue while running into a surprisingly high number of locals in this ostensibly remote area. And, to the viewer’s great annoyance, all five of the principals persist in their irritating lives up until the movie’s final minutes.

But, as noted above, these final minutes are not without their charms for the gorehounds among us. If one is willing to trudge courageously through the doldrums of tedium and indifference, there are some sanguinary delights on the other side, particularly a satisfyingly stomach-churning scene in which a young woman inadvertently peels back her flesh while shaving her legs and an agreeably agonizing image of spade thrust into one character’s face. There is nothing here that wouldn’t be better experienced in a three-minute sizzle reel, but true aficionados of gore know that the carnage glimpsed only fleetingly, nearly lost amongst the vast expanses of poor filmmaking and indifferent storytelling, can be the most sublime.

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