Cabin Fever (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Eli Roth|
|Story by||Eli Roth|
|Music by||Nathan Barr|
|Edited by||Ryan Folsey|
|Box office||$30.5 million|
Cabin Fever is a 2002 American horror comedy film co-written and directed by Eli Roth (in his directorial debut) and starring Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent, Joey Kern, and Giuseppe Andrews. 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.
A hermit walking in the woods encounters his dog, who has died of a bloody infection, and the hermit becomes infected. Meanwhile, college students Jeff, Marcy, Paul, Karen and Bert take a vacation to a remote cabin to celebrate spring break. Bert leaves to shoot squirrels but shoots the now disfigured and bloody hermit. Despite the hermit's pleas, Bert flees and remains silent about the incident.
The group gather around a campfire that night, where they are joined by a friendly drifter named Grimm and his pet dog, Dr. Mambo. When it rains, Grimm leaves with his dog to pack up his belongings. While the friends wait for Grimm indoors, the hermit returns, begging for help. When Bert shuts the door on the sick hermit, he tries stealing the group's car while vomiting blood. When the hermit approaches Marcy and Karen, Paul accidentally sets him on fire. While seeking help the next day, Jeff and Bert encounters a butcher but leave after learning she is the dead hermit's cousin. Paul receives assistance from police Deputy Winston, who promises to send up a tow truck. Paul tries comforting Karen, who is upset over the killing of the hermit. After calming her down, Paul attempts sex with her; as he reaches between her legs, he discovers an infection that has spread in her groin. The group isolates her in a shed.
After fixing the truck, Bert coughs up blood but does not tell the others. Bert drives off after Paul and Jeff discover he has caught the disease. Jeff takes the remaining beer and leaves, terrified of becoming infected. Bert seeks help at a convenience store but angers the owner after his son, Dennis, bites him. Bert flees, chased by Dennis's father and two friends. At the cabin, Marcy worries that they will all contract the disease. When Paul comforts her, they impulsively have sex. Regretting the affair, Paul leaves while Marcy takes a bath, crying; as she shaves her legs the flesh begins to peel off and she runs outside in a panic, where she is mauled by Dr. Mambo.
Paul discovers the hermit's corpse floating in a reservoir and realizes the infection is spreading through the water supply. Racing back to the cabin, Paul finds Marcy's remains and Dr. Mambo feeding on Karen. After killing Dr. Mambo with Bert's gun, he bludgeons Karen with a shovel out of mercy. A dying Bert returns to the cabin pursued by Dennis's father and his two companions. The posse shoots and kills Bert, and Paul kills all three of them. Paul looks for Jeff; he instead finds Grimm's corpse. Paul takes 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 ordered to kill on sight several infected people on a killing spree. With the group turning on him, Paul attacks and infects several of Winston's friends before knocking Winston out. A passing truck drops off Paul at a hospital, where he weakly discusses where he caught the disease. The doctors inform the sheriff that Paul must be transferred. Lying in the back of Winston's squad car, Paul unsuccessfully warns him about the contaminated water supply; Winston dumps him at the edge of a creek.
Jeff, who has been hiding out and drinking in the woods, returns to the cabin the next day. Initially crying after seeing the remains of his friends, he becomes ecstatic upon realizing he is the only survivor. As he raises his arms in victory, Winston shoots him and burns his body with the others. At the convenience store, several children sell lemonade, which they have made with the water from the creek Paul was dumped in, to the same police officers. A large truck filled with bottles of water taken from the creek can be seen leaving the store.
- Rider Strong as Paul
- Jordan Ladd as Karen
- James DeBello as Bert
- Cerina Vincent as Marcy
- Joey Kern as Jeff
- Arie Verveen as Henry, the Hermit
- Giuseppe Andrews as Deputy Winston
- Eli Roth as Justin / Grimm
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.
Filming on Cabin Fever began in late 2001 and lasted 24 days, on location in North Carolina. 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 (2001), 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 conflict between the two, Vincent told Roth that if he wanted the shot so badly, he would need to re-cast the role with another actress. But they managed to reach a compromise, in which Vincent showed one inch of her buttocks on camera before Roth measured it for it to be precise. Bedsheets were then taped to her backside at the designated level and the scene was filmed.
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. Some of the music selected for the film was deliberately chosen by Roth for their connection to other horror films; in the opening scene 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.
The film premiered at the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September 2002 and was the festival's closing feature film. After a successful run at TIFF, the distribution rights to the film was sold to Lionsgate for $3.5 million. Cabin Fever was released in the United States on September 12, 2003; it landed at No. 3 during its opening weekend, grossing $8.3 million on 2,087 theaters (an average of $4,137 per screen). The film ended its theatrical run with a gross of $21.2 million in the U.S. and Canada and $30.5 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film released by Lionsgate of that year.
Cabin Fever was released on DVD in March 2004, which includes audio commentary tracks with director Eli Roth and the main cast as well as a featurette entitled "Beneath the Skin", which provides a behind the scenes look on the film. The Blu-ray was released in February 2010, featuring Roth's edited version of the film that was screened at TIFF. The Blu-ray was created from the film's original camera negative overseen by Roth, and includes a brand-new audio commentary with Roth and the main cast as well as a gallery of rare behind the scenes photos.
Uproxx reported that Cabin Fever drew "better-than-average" reviews. The main actors' performances were complimented by critics as "solid" and "adequate". Their roles, however, were met with negative reactions: IGN and Manohla Dargis in Los Angeles Times described them, respectively, as stereotypical and "monumentally irritating". Furthermore, IGN and Dargis criticized the film's lack of scares, delivering more jokes and gore. Stephen Holden of The New York Times and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone disagreed; Holden said Cabin Fever "finds an unusually potent blend of dread, gore and gallows humor", and Travers called it "a blast of good gory fun that just won't quit". Kim Newman in Empire and Maitland McDonagh in TV Guide awarded Cabin Fever three stars out of five.
Reviewers observed the film's homage to low-budget horror/thriller films, including Night of the Living Dead, Deliverance, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Evil Dead (and its sequel), and The Blair Witch Project. IGN said Cabin Fever "struggles valiantly to be both a worthy addition and simultaneous homage to these genres ... becoming instead a passably enjoyable slab of schlock", criticizing its failure to reinvent its source material. Conversely, Newman said: "There's a fine line between homage and simply stealing, but writer-director Eli Roth mostly manages the former". Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post said Cabin Fever compared poorly to The Evil Dead and The Blair Witch Project, describing it as "a loud, derivative grade-Z horror film of no particular distinction". McDonagh said Cabin Fever was "more Straw Dogs than Night of the Living Dead", citing its theme of "degeneration of relationships under pressure".
Some critics said Cabin Fever suffered from genre and tone inconsistencies, with Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times comparing the flaw to "kids on those arcade games where the target lights up and you have to stomp on it". Ebert was critical that the film alternates between horror and "weird humor", getting nowhere; he said it "could develop its plague story in a serious way, like a George Romero picture or 28 Days Later". Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly said, "Cabin Fever is what 28 Days Later would have looked like had it been made without style, subtlety, grunge-of-night video photography, or fashionable apocalyptic pretensions." Ebert gave Cabin Fever one and a half stars out of four, and Gleiberman said it was "a big, dumb, crude, noisy, goose-the-audience bash and proud of it".
The review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes offers a 63% approval rating from 140 critics—a weighted average of 6 out of 10 with the consensus, "More gory than scary, Cabin Fever is satisfied with paying homage to genre conventions rather than reinventing them." The film also has a score of 56 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Peter Jackson, the director of The Lord of the Rings film series, was a notable fan of Cabin Fever. Having seen the film from a print sent to him, Jackson suspended production on The Return of the King twice in his native New Zealand to have it screened to his cast and crew members; he complimented the film as "unrelenting, gruesomely funny bloodbath". Quentin Tarantino also expressed his admiration for Cabin Fever, calling Roth "the future of horror".
Eli Roth revealed in a 2010 interview that he had written a film treatment for a sequel to Cabin Fever as part of Lionsgate's distribution deal, pitching it as "a Song of the South horror movie filled with corpses and sex." Since Lionsgate was unwilling to produce his idea, Roth entrusted Ti West to direct the sequel entirely from West's own version. Filming on the sequel to Cabin Fever, titled Spring Fever, began in 2007. The film experienced a difficult post-production stage. After extensive re-editing and re-shooting by the producers, West requested to have his name removed from the film and replaced with the popular pseudonym Alan Smithee. Because he was not a member of the Directors Guild of America, however, his request was denied by the producers and he remains credited as the film's director. West has since disowned the final product, claiming that it is more a product of the producers and executives than that of his own. Spring Fever was screened at the Fantastic Fest in September 2009.
A prequel to the previous two films, Patient Zero, was directed by Kaare Andrews and released in 2014. A remake of Cabin Fever was subsequently announced that same year, with Roth staying on as executive producer. Travis Zariwny directed the remake using Cabin Fever's original screenplay co-written by Roth. Despite a mediocre reception upon its 2016 release, with critics calling it "pointless" and derivative, Roth said he was genuinely happy with the remake.
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