Ho ho ho! That’s quite enough of that, on with the review. A group of unpleasant teenagers head out for a vacation in a cabin in the woods, only to have their holiday rudely spoiled by an equally unpleasant flesh-eating disease.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Made in 2002, Cabin Fever is Eli Roth’s tribute to films like The Evil Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But rather than evil demons or chainsaw-wielding maniacs, the threat here is a gruesome flesh disease, putting a fresh spin on the sub-genre. Much fresher than the rotting bodies of its victims, in any case.
This allows for a breakdown of trust between the characters that feels more like zombie fiction or something like The Thing, which introduces an original angle to an old format. It also hints at a Cronenbergian subtext about the body, sex and disease, while there’s a touch of environmentalism as there is in Teeth. But any political meaning is quickly lost amongst all the blood, which flows in gallons and gallons. And gallons. It’s not as funny or interesting as Teeth, nor does it have anything like as much care for its characters, but it does illicit a similarly high wince rate.
It’s horrible. Really horrible. I think I’m quite used to body horror by now, but this made me feel sick. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on your point of view, but personally I enjoyed it. The disease is flesh-eatingly well realised through the gross special effects, and provides some flinchtasticly funny moments. The film is riddled with sick visual gags, and while not every joke works, this is still an enjoyable directorial debut for Roth, with a crucial sense of fun that’s absent from his 2005 follow-up Hostel.
According to IMDb, Peter Jackson stopped production on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to screen it for the entire crew. Three times. And why not? Cabin Fever strikes a good balance between incredibly grim and bizarrely entertaining, successfully harking back to classic horror films and playing with generic convention. Just be careful out there, because apparently the flesh-eating disease is based on necrotizing fasciitis, which kills 1,500 people a year in the US alone. Merry Christmas!