Cabin Fever (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Eli Roth|
|Story by||Eli Roth|
|Edited by||Ryan Folsey|
Black Sky Entertainment
|Distributed by||Lionsgate Films|
|Box office||$30.6 million|
Cabin Fever is a 2002 American horror film directed by Eli Roth and starring Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, and Giuseppe Andrews. It was produced by Lauren Moews and Evan Astrowsky and executive produced by Susan Jackson. 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.
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.
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A hermit walking in the woods encounters his dog. He tries to get the dog's attention, but the dog is dead due to a bloody infection, and the hermit comes into contact with the infected blood.
College students Jeff, Marcy, Paul, Karen and Burt, take a vacation to a remote cabin to celebrate the start of spring break. Jeff and Marcy are in a physical relationship, while Paul has had a crush on Karen since seventh grade. Burt is the proverbial fifth wheel of the group. Visiting a local convenience store, they encounter an unusual boy named Dennis, who has a tendency to bite people. When the five reach the cabin, Jeff and Marcy have sex while Paul and Karen go for a swim. Burt goes out to shoot squirrels with his rifle, but ends up shooting the hermit, now disfigured and bloody. The hermit flees, and 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 dog, Dr. Mambo. After sharing some marijuana it starts raining, so Grimm leaves with his dog to pack up his belongings. 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 stealing the group's car, while vomiting blood upon it. When the hermit threatens Marcy and Karen, Paul accidentally sets him on fire. The group looks for help the next day. Jeff and Burt find a neighbor, but leave when they find out she is the dead hermit's cousin. Dr. Mambo begins harassing the group. Paul 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 tries comforting Karen, who is upset over the killing of the hermit. After calming her down, Paul attempts to have sex with her, but when he moves to touch her, he discovers a bloody infection on her thigh. The group isolates her in a shed.
After fixing the truck, Burt begins coughing up blood, but does not tell the others. After Karen vomits blood on the truck, Jeff takes the group's remaining beer and leaves. Burt goes to the convenience store to get help, but incurs the wrath of Dennis's father after Dennis bites him. Burt flees, chased by Dennis's father and two friends. At the cabin, Marcy worries that they will all contract the disease. When Paul tries comforting her, they impulsively have sex. Regretting the affair, Paul leaves while Marcy takes a bath, crying. When she shaves her legs the flesh begins to peel off and she runs outside in a panic, where she is killed by Dr. Mambo.
Paul discovers the hermit's corpse floating in a reservoir and realizes the infection is spreading through the drinking water. Racing back to the cabin, Paul finds Marcy's remains and Dr. Mambo feeding on Karen. After killing Dr. Mambo with Burt's gun, Paul puts Karen out of her misery by pouring gasoline onto her and setting her on fire. A dying Burt returns to the cabin pursued by Dennis's father and his two companions. Burt is killed by the posse who shoot him, before Paul kills all three of them. Paul sets out to find Jeff. Finding the dismembered body of Grimm, Paul takes the group from the convenience store's truck and while driving discovers he is infected before hitting a deer. He reunites with Deputy Winston, who is partying with underage drinkers. Paul requests a ride to the hospital, but before the group departs, Winston is radioed about several infected people in a cabin going on a killing spree, ordering him to shoot the kids on sight. With the group turning on him, Paul attacks and infects several of Winston's friends before knocking Winston out. Paul is picked up by a passing truck and dropped off at a hospital. He is interrogated about the virus, but cannot provide any meaningful responses. The doctors inform the sheriff that Paul must be transferred to another hospital if he wants any chance of survival. The sheriff tells Winston to "take care" of Paul. Laying in the back of Winston's squad car, Paul tries to warn him 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 without being infected. As he raises his arms in victory, he is gunned down by Deputy Winston, 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.
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 also the use of the word "nigger" early in the film.
Roth was inspired to write the script based on his own experience with a skin infection he transmitted while traveling abroad. Various elements of the script were inspired by Roth's favorite horror films, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Last House on the Left (1972), and The Evil Dead (1981).
The auditions for the character of Marcy had been scheduled to take place on September 11, 2001. The scene the 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." 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.
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.
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.
Some of the music selected for the film was deliberately chosen by Roth for their connection to other horror films; in the beginning of the film for example, while the main characters are driving to the cabin, "The Road Leads to Nowhere", a song written and recorded for The Last House on the Left (1972), is playing on the radio.
Internet review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, shows a 63% approval rating for the film based on 139 reviews. Stephen Holden of The New York Times called it "an unusually potent blend of dread, gore and gallows humor". Rolling Stone's Peter Travers awarded the film three out of four stars, deeming it "a blast of good gory fun that just won't quit."
Jamie Russell of BBC praised the film, writing: "As it stands, [Cabin Fever is] a grab bag of the sick and the silly, the putrid and the puerile, the disturbing and the dense. Definitely unforgettable, it's destined for cult classic status." Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle criticized the film, saying that it "falls short, filled with characters so obnoxiously stupid that just watching their skin slowly melt off doesn't seem like enough punishment." Mike Clark, writing for USA Today, gave the film a middling review, but noted: "A disciple of David Lynch's, Roth packs his story with horror, humor, hillbillies and sex. Roth caps his fast-moving story with a joke that's as oddly left-field as it is funny, but truth to tell, it is funny."
Rick Groen of The Globe and Mail echoed sentiments about the film's referentiality, noting: "Cabin Fever is imitative, but it's honestly and even reverentially so—what Roth borrows he at least has the grace to pay back." Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post lambasted the film, calling it "a loud, derivative grade-Z horror film of no particular distinction, and why it's generated some buzz at film fests is the real and only interesting mystery about it."
- Cabin Fever at Box Office Mojo
- Beneath the Skin. Cabin Fever DVD, Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2004, documentary. ASIN: B0000ZG054
- Roth, Eli. Cabin Fever DVD, Lions Gate Entertainment, 2004, audio commentary. ASIN: B0000ZG054
- "Eli Roth Talks Cabin Fever, Hostel 3, Endangered Species, Thanksgiving and More!". Dread Central. February 11, 2010. Archived from the original on December 28, 2013. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
- Piatti-Farrell, Lorna (2017). Consuming Gothic: Food and Horror in Film. Springer. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-137-45051-7.
- WENN. "Cerina Refused To Bare Rear". Contactmusic.com. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
- Tompkins, Joe (2009). Lerner, Neil, ed. Music in the Horror Film: Listening to Fear. Routledge. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-135-28044-4.
- "Lions Gate Films' ``Cabin Fever Rages to $8.6 Million Opening at Weekend Box Office; ``Cabin Fever Is #1 Horror Film in America". Business Insider. September 15, 2003. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
- "Cabin Fever (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 6, 2007.
- Holden, Stephen (September 12, 2003). "Something's Rotten Out in the Woods". The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
- Travers, Peter (September 8, 2003). "Cabin Fever". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
- Russell, Jamie (October 6, 2003). "Films - Review - Cabin Fever". BBC. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
- Hartlaub, Peter (September 12, 2003). "Flesh-eating idiocy devours 'Cabin Fever'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 15, 2017 – via SF Gate.
- Clark, Mike (September 11, 2003). "'Cabin Fever' wreaks havoc on babes in the woods". USA Today. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
- Groen, Rick (September 12, 2003). "Cabin Fever". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
- Hunter, Stephen (September 12, 2003). "'Cabin Fever': A Little Buggy". Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
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