Cabin Fever (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Eli Roth|
|Story by||Eli Roth|
|Editing by||Ryan Folsey|
|Studio||Black Sky Entertainment|
|Distributed by||Lions Gate Films|
|Running time||92 minutes|
Cabin Fever is a 2002 American horror film directed by Eli Roth and starring Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello and Giuseppe Andrews. The film was the directing debut of Roth, who co-wrote the film with Randy Pearlstein. The story follows a group of college graduates who rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a flesh-eating virus. The inspiration for the film's story came from a real life experience during a trip to Iceland when Roth developed a skin infection. The film's title is a double entendre, referring both to the phenomenon, which is seen in the declining of the student's friendships, and also to the illness spreading through the cabin, although fever is not one of the disease's symptoms.
Roth wanted the style of his film to make a departure from many modern horror films that had been released at the time. One modern horror film, The Blair Witch Project, did inspire Roth to use the internet to help promote the film during its production and help gain interest towards its distribution. The film itself, however, draws from many of Roth's favorite horror films, such as The Evil Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Last House on the Left. Roth was tired of what he called the "watered down PG-13" horror films of the studios, and refused to compromise on the violence or nudity, saying they were essential ingredients to an '80s-style horror film.
A hermit walking in the woods comes across his dog. He tries to get the dog's attention, but the dog is dead due to a bloody infection, and the hermit is sprayed with infected blood.
Five college students, Paul, Karen, Marcy, Jeff, and Burt, take a vacation to a remote cabin in the woods to celebrate the start of spring break. Jeff and Marcy are in a physical relationship, while Paul is trying to get childhood friend Karen to sleep with him. Upon their visit to a local convenience store, they meet an unusual boy named Dennis, who has a tendency to bite people, and a store owner who has a rifle he is keeping for "niggers". When the five get to the cabin, Jeff and Marcy have sex and Paul and Karen go for a swim. Meanwhile, Burt goes out to shoot squirrels with his rifle, but ends up shooting the hermit, now disfigured and bloody. The hermit flees, but Burt does not tell anyone about the incident.
That night, the friends gather around a campfire, where they are joined by a friendly drifter named Justin, who prefers to be called Grimm, and his angry dog, Dr. Mambo. After they share some marijuana, it starts to rain, so Grimm leaves with his dog to pack up his stuff. While the friends wait for Grimm indoors, the hermit returns, in a much worse state than before and begging for help. Burt shuts the door on the sick hermit, who then tries to steal the group's car, while vomiting blood all over it. When the hermit threatens Marcy and Karen, Paul accidentally sets the hermit on fire while trying to ward him off. The group looks for help the next day. Jeff and Burt find a helpful neighbor, but leave when they find out she's the dead hermit's cousin. To make matters worse, a savage dog, perhaps Dr. Mambo, begins harassing the group. Paul later gets assistance from police Deputy Winston, who promises to send up a tow truck, but in the meantime encourages Paul to have a good time and party. Paul goes on to comfort Karen, who is upset over the killing of the hermit. After he calms her down, it appears Paul is finally going to have sex with her, but when he goes to touch her, he discovers a massive bloody infection on her thigh. The group isolates her in a shed outside of the cabin.
After fixing the truck, Burt begins coughing up blood, revealing he is infected, but does not tell the others. After Karen pukes up blood on the truck, Jeff takes the group's remaining beer and leaves. Burt goes back to the convenience store to get help, but incurs the wrath of Dennis's father after inadvertently infecting Dennis with the disease when Dennis bites him. Showing more signs of infection, Burt flees, chased by Dennis's father and two friends. After moving Karen back to the shed, Marcy convinces Paul to have unprotected sex with her. Shortly after, Paul leaves to find help and look for Jeff. A depressed Marcy, who develops infected sores on her back during sex with Paul, takes a shower, crying when her skin starts to fall off while shaving her legs. She later goes outside, where she is killed by Dr. Mambo.
Meanwhile, Paul discovers the dead body of the hermit floating in a reservoir, revealing the infection has been spreading through the drinking water. After racing back to the cabin, Paul finds Dr. Mambo feeding on Karen. After killing Dr. Mambo with Burt's gun, Paul puts Karen out of her misery by beating her to death with a shovel. A dying Burt later returns to the cabin, still pursued by Dennis's father and his two companions. Burt is shot by the posse, who in turn are killed by Paul, who then sets out to find Jeff. After finding the dismembered body of Grimm and discovering early signs that he is infected, Paul takes the group from the convenience store's truck and hits a deer, covering him in blood. He later reunites with Deputy Winston, who is partying with underage drinkers. After Winston is radioed about several infected people in a cabin going on a killing spree, Paul attacks and infects several of Winston's friends before knocking Winston out. Paul is later picked up by a passing truck and dropped off at a hospital. There, he is interrogated about the virus, but he cannot provide any response. The sheriff tells Winston to "take care" of Paul. Paul tries to warn Winston about the drinking water by saying "water..." but Winston only responds by dumping him at the edge of a creek.
The next day, Jeff, who has been hiding out and drinking in the woods, returns to the cabin. Initially crying after seeing the remains of his friends, he later becomes ecstatic upon realizing he is the only one who made it. As he raises his arms in victory, he is gunned down by several police officers, who burn his body along with the others. Back at the convenience store, a couple of children sell lemonade, that they have made with water from the creek Paul was dumped in, to the same police officers. In addition, a large truck, filled with bottles of water taken from the creek, can be seen leaving the store.
The film ends with several African-Americans entering the convenience store. The store owner grabs the rifle and then hands it to them, revealing he was only polishing it up for them and that they are good friends.
- The Students
- Rider Strong as Paul, who grew up with Karen and has a crush on her, although they have never been in a relationship. He contracts the disease fourth, by having unprotected sex with Marcy who was already infected. Paul returns briefly in Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.
- James DeBello as Burt, a vulgar practical joker. He contracts the disease third, by drinking a glass of infected water, though he is the second student to show symptoms.
- Jordan Ladd as Karen, a young woman who has known Paul for many years. She is the first student to contract the disease and is quarantined in the toolshed for much of the movie.
- Cerina Vincent as Marcy, a young woman who is in a relationship with Jeff at the beginning of the film. She contracts the disease second, from a cup of tea. She later has a sexual affair with Paul, unwittingly infecting him in the process.
- Joey Kern as Jeff, a self-centered young man who is Marcy's boyfriend. He avoids getting the disease thanks to a bet he made with Burt to only drink beer for the whole vacation and is consequently the only student not to get infected.
- Secondary characters
- Arie Verveen as Henry "The Hermit", the first human shown catching the disease (which he catches from his dead dog) and patient zero in the outbreak. He infects the local water supply by falling in the reservoir.
- Giuseppe Andrews as Deputy Winston Olsen, a deputy for the local sheriff's office. Winston appears as a lead character in the sequel.
- Matthew Helms as Dennis, a mentally-disabled boy who bites strangers without provocation. He contracts the disease when he bites (infected) Bert and is last seen in a critical condition in hospital.
- Eli Roth as Justin "Grimm", a fellow camper in the woods.
- Hal Courtney as Tommy, Dennis's father.
- Other characters
- Robert Harris as Old Man Cadwell, who mans the counter at the nearby market.
- Richard Boone and Tim Parati as Fenster and Andy, Tommy's friends.
- Brandon Johnson as Ray Shawn
Eli Roth co-wrote Cabin Fever with friend and former NYU roommate Randy Pearlstein in 1995 while Roth was working as a production assistant for Howard Stern's Private Parts. Early attempts to sell the script were unsuccessful because studios felt that the horror genre had become unprofitable. In 1996, the film Scream was released to great success, leading studios to once again become interested in horror properties. Roth still could not sell his script, as studios told him that it should be more like Scream. Many potential financiers also found the film's content to be unsettling, including not only the gore, but the use of the word "nigger" early in the film. The script was not produced until the fall of 2001, when Roth and Lauren Moews raised $50,000 to begin production with producers Evan Astrowsky and Sam Froelich. The rest of the money was raised during the shooting.
The auditions for the character of Marcy had been scheduled to take place on September 11, 2001. The scene producers had chosen for the auditioning actresses was the build-up to Marcy's sex scene with Paul. In the scene, Marcy is convinced that all the students are doomed and despite Paul's reassurances, she describes their situation as "like being on a plane, when you know it's gonna crash. Everybody around you is screaming 'We're Going Down! We're Going Down!' and all you want to do is grab the person next to you and fuck them, because you know you're going to be dead soon, anyway." After which, she looks over at Paul (the person next to her), followed by a cut to her throwing him down on the bed and having sex with him. Eli Roth and the producers tried to cancel the Marcy auditions, but the general chaos caused by the attacks made it impossible for them to reach many of the actresses who were scheduled to try out for the role. Consequently, the auditions went ahead and Cerina Vincent won the role. Roth has said that he chose her for her 'expressive eyes'.
The film was shot on a small budget of $1.5 million. The original killer dog was so old and tired that all of its scenes had to be re-shot with a new dog. With no time or money to find a replacement, the producers cast a real police attack dog that was so vicious and unpredictable that no actors could appear with it on camera.
Composer Angelo Badalamenti agreed to compose some musical themes for the film out of enthusiasm for the material. However, the bulk of the film's score was composed by Nathan Barr who has gone on to score both of Eli's Hostel films. Actor Michael Rosenbaum was originally cast to play Justin aka Grim, but when Rosenbaum wasn't able to commit to the shoot due to another production, Smallville, that was taking off, the role was filled by the director himself.
Joey Kern sustained numerous unrelated injuries to his eye during filming, each one requiring a trip to hospital. His injuries disrupted the filming schedule and many scenes that were to be shot later were rescheduled at the last minute, so that minimal shooting time would be lost while Kern recovered. This resulted in numerous supposedly daytime scenes (mainly ones inside the cabin) being shot in the middle of the night.
Roth originally wanted Cerina Vincent to show her naked buttocks during her sex scene with Rider Strong. Vincent, who had previously played a nude foreign exchange student in Not Another Teen Movie was afraid that exposing too much of herself would lead to being typecast as a nudity actress and vehemently refused to bare her buttocks. At the peak of this stand-off between actress and director, Vincent told Roth that if he wanted the shot so badly, he would need to re-cast the role of Marcy with another actress. But they managed to reach a compromise - Cerina would bare one inch of her buttocks on camera, no more, no less. Eli Roth brought a ruler along to the filming and measured Cerina's buttocks, to be sure he got his one inch. Bedsheets were then taped to Vincent's backside at the designated level and the scene was filmed. Only the second (behind-the-back) shot features this one inch, in the first (over-the-shoulder) shot, the bedsheets cover Cerina's buttocks completely.
At one point, during a break in filming, Strong went exploring alone in the forest. He had been filming one of his more gruesome scenes and his face was covered in bloody make-up. He stumbled upon a group of schoolgirls on a field trip. The girls were initially horrified by Strong's appearance (not realizing it was make up), but then someone recognized him as the actor from Boy Meets World, and Strong soon found himself trying to escape from a mob of starstruck girls. When he eventually found his way back to the film site, he vowed never to wander off between takes again.
Priddy's General Store, built in the 1890s in Stokes County, North Carolina, was used for a scene. Rebecca Clark of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission showed the store to Roth, who said, "This is perfect." Years later, fans still visit the store.
Grossing $33,553,394 at the box office worldwide, the film was marked No. 3 and the highest grossing film released by Lions Gate Home Entertainment in 2003. Critical response to the film was mixed, with a rave review from the New York Times and Film Comment magazine. Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gives the film a score of 63% based on 135 reviews, with the consensus "More gory than scary, Cabin Fever is satisfied with paying homage to genre conventions rather than reinventing them."
Peter Jackson loved the film, and gave a quote to use in the advertising. Quentin Tarantino cited Cabin Fever as the best new American film in his Premiere magazine interview for Kill Bill Vol. 2, and called Eli Roth "The Future of Horror." The film was also No. 28 on Bravo TV's "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments"
Richard Roeper called it an "ugly gorefest" and said "Cabin Fever is a particularly disgusting and brainless version of this all-too-familiar horror film". Ebert said "Director Eli Roth is trying do about four things at once, to make a horror film, a comedy, a satire and a political parable about infectious diseases and none of them work", summing up the movie as "a mess". He ended the review with Roeper suggesting to viewers "don't bring snacks, if you insist on going to this movie, don't bring any food into the theater because you'll be losing it on your way out."
Cabin Fever over time has grown to be a cult classic, and Roth was nominated for several Saturn Awards, and an Empire Award for Best Newcomer. It was voted Best Horror Film by readers of the website Bloody Disgusting in 2004.
Sequel and Prequels
Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever is directed by Ti West (The Roost, The House of the Devil) from a screenplay by Joshua Malkin, story by Randy Pearlstein and Ti West. Rider Strong briefly reprised his role as Paul and Giuseppe Andrews reprised his role as Deputy Winston. Larry Fessenden and Alexi Wasser also star.
Producer Lauren Moews has expressed interest in producing a Cabin Fever 3. She says if she finds the right director that she feels is worthy of filming it, then it will be green lit for production. No dates are known at this moment. The third movie, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, which is about the virus spreading on a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea, and the fourth film, Cabin Fever: Outbreak, will be about a family who travels to a Caribbean island and has to deal with the same virus. Both are being shot back-to-back by the companies Indomina and Hypotenuse Pictures.
Cabin Fever: Patient Zero and Cabin Fever: Outbreak will be prequels to the original film, revealing the origins of the virus in the original film and Kaare Andrews has signed on to direct both films. Jake Wade Wall wrote the screenplay for Patient Zero and Outbreak is being written by Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan. Patient Zero was set for release in 2013 and Outbreak in 2014.
- Cabin Fever at Box Office Mojo
- Roth, Eli. Cabin Fever DVD, Lions Gate Entertainment, 2004, audio commentary. ASIN: B0000ZG054
- Beneath the Skin. Cabin Fever DVD, Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2004, documentary. ASIN: B0000ZG054
- Eli Roth on the Past, Present and Future of 'Cabin Fever'
- Eli Roth Talks Cabin Fever, Hostel 3, Endangered Species, Thanksgiving and More!
- "ContactMusic - Cerina Refused To Bare Rear". contactmusic.com. Retrieved 2003-10-21.
- "Cabin Fever". ELI-ROTH.ORG. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
- O'Donnell, Lisa (October 31, 2011). "Old landmark's modern following". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
- "Cabin Fever (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
- "Cabin Fever". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Two Names Return to Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "Strong and Andrews head back to the Cabin". March 4, 2007. Archived from the original on March 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "EXCL: Producer, Cast Talk Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever". ShockTillYouDrop.
- "Eli Roth’s ‘Cabin Fever’ To Get Two More Sequels". Geeks of Doom. November 1, 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-02.
- "Auditions for 'Cabin Fever: Patient Zero' and 'Cabin Fever: Outbreak'". Retrieved September 3, 2012.
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- Cabin Fever at the Internet Movie Database
- Cabin Fever at allmovie
- Cabin Fever at Box Office Mojo
- Cabin Fever at Rotten Tomatoes