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CABIN FEVER - 2002
USA Release: Sept. 12, 2003
Lions Gate Films
Rated: USA: R

The ending. That's what's wrong with horror movies. Or rather, that's where most horror movies go wrong. So many screenwriters come up with cool ideas or situations and the movies get off to great starts only to go off the rails in the third act when it's time to wrap everything up.

But enough of my ramblings. I have to tell you about CABIN FEVER.

This horror movie was directed by Eli Roth (HOSTEL, 2001 MANIACS) and written by Mr. Roth and Randy Pearlstein. It's about kids in the woods but these are horny teenagers, not film students, so there's no BLAIR WITCH vibe. The kids are the truly horny Jeff (Joey Kern: one of the stoners in the opening scene of Super Troopers) and Marcy (Cerina Vincent: a former Power Ranger, IT WAITS), the "just friends" couple: Paul (Rider Strong: THE STARSHIP TROOPER CHRONICLES) and Karen (Jordan Ladd: EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE) and obnoxious loner, Bert (James DeBello: SWIMFAN). Finals have ended and these beautiful collegians want to get away from it all.

An odd encounter with the locals at the general store introduces some interesting characters and then it's on to the cabin and the increasing sexual tension. Bert doesn't seem to notice and is content to wander off on a drunken squirrel hunting expedition (no, he's not hunting drunken squirrels – he's the one… ... never mind).

Bert misses a squirrel and hits a diseased hermit (Arie Verveen: THE RED LINE). This guy is in rough shape, bleeding from huge open sores, and getting shot doesn't help his condition. Bert is more freaked out about not wanting the hermit to touch him than he is about having injured a fellow human being. He uses his rifle to keep the hermit at a distance and promises to go get help. Then he goes back to the cabin and has a few beers with his friends.

The central theme here is morality. Not in a deep, philosophical sense but in a gross out sense. We all like to think we'd help someone in need and we'd especially come to the aid of our friends. But what if the people who needed help were liquefying into bloody pulp? What if whatever they had was so horrible that your fear of getting the disease outweighed your moral impulses?

Those impulses vary, from the morally vacant Bert to the good guy, Paul. And that kind of morality play is potentially interesting. But is it actually interesting?

Before I tell you that I want to go into more detail about this liquefying into a bloody pulp business with a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
The monster in this monster movie is a member of the Streptococcus family, but you know it better as the flesh eating bacteria. It's quite rare but when it does happen it usually enters the body through a cut or other injury. Once in the blood stream it infects the muscles and fat just beneath the skin and produces toxins that dissolve the flesh in a process called necrotizing fasciitis.

Be careful if you google those words, by the way, because you’ll probably end up seeing some of the grossest medical photos ever taken. This is a life threatening infection and treatment usually involves immediate amputation of infected body parts.

And yes, the movie mostly gets the details right. This infection really isn’t very communicable (unless an infected bleeds into some else's open wound) but these kids ain't exactly rocket scientists so their ignorance (and terror about getting “the disease”) is very believable. And the way they get infected is basically believable, although it requires some criminal negligence.

Check out the !!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!

Unfortunately that's the only thing here that is believable. Almost everything else, like what they do and what they say, is pretty freakin' unbelievable. The main characters start out kind of interesting but its gets harder and harder to care about them when you spend all your time muttering, "What the hell? Why'd he do that?" The supposed-to-be-colorful hick locals make even less sense and by the end of the movie you've mostly lost interest.

It's really too bad. There hasn't been a decent movie yet about the flesh-eating bacteria. Maybe it needs a better agent. I give CABIN FEVER two shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2003 E.C.McMullen Jr.

Cabin Fever (2002) on IMDb
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