Cabin Fever (2002)
Directed by Eli Roth

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * ½

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While five drunken, over-sexed college students are vacationing at an isolated cabin in the woods, a local man infected with a flesh eating virus arrives at their door pleading for help. The students, horrified by the ghastly state of this person, refuse to let him in, but, when he attempts to steal their vehicle, over which he spews vast quantities of blood, the five youths beat him with clubs and accidentally set him on fire. Subsequently, these persons discover that one or more of them may have been infected with the same horrific disease from which this man had been suffering.

Eli Roth's Cabin Fever does have its impressive moments, but, taken as a whole, it is a forgettable and uninspired film.

Much of the movie consists of the usual sorts of clichéd situations that can be found in countless horror films. Admittedly, these are often presented in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but they are never realized with enough imagination for them ever to be particularly distinctive. Roth, for instance, strands his characters in an isolated location, from which they are unable to escape, has them endure the attacks of diseased dogs and murderous yokels, and reveals their increasing anger with one another, which is prompted by their fears that some of them may have contracted the sickness to which they have been exposed. Regrettably, these events are poorly paced, especially as the movie is approaching its end, and the story can, as a result, seem both disjointed and tiresome.

Even the persons around whom these occurrences revolve are largely recycled. The director thus populates his film with dangerous, inbred hillbillies ready to hunt and kill those who irritate them, a young boy who sits outside a small store and viciously bites anyone who comes near him, libidinous college girls, who shed their garments whenever the chance for sexual intercourse arises, ignorant local cops more concerned with seducing young women and drinking beer than enforcing the law, and various other quirky characters.

Fortunately, Cabin Fever is filled with so many gruesome events and repulsive special effects that it is rarely boring. At several different times, Roth shows one character or another vomiting copious amounts of gore or gasping in horror as he discovers that his skin is rotting away, seeping blood, or covered with nasty open sores. In one scene, he depicts a mad dog devouring a still living young woman who is lying sick and helpless in a shed. In others, he has a couple, thinking they will soon die, engage in sex, only to learn that one of them is infected, a woman shaving the flesh from her leg, and so on and so on. The movie really is pretty grisly.

While Cabin Fever does not have much in it for which it can be recommended, other than its nasty, stomach churning special effects, these are dramatic enough that they are likely to keep the viewer appreciative of the horrific and nauseating engaged.

Review by Keith Allen

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