Terror... In the flesh.
Running Time: 92 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
It is something of a cliché amongst fans of horror that the genre had its heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s, and has been utterly rotten ever since, with late 1990s postmodern parodies like 'Scream' putting the final nail in its coffin. Recently, however, thanks to a new generation of directors who worship horror's glory days, 1970s-style horror has risen again from the grave, as frightening, funny and downright misanthropic as it ever was. First in the revival came the low-budget woods-and-cabin shocker 'The Blair Witch Project', then the George Romero tribute '28 Days Later…', and this year there is Tobe-Hooper-worshipping 'House of 1000 Corpses', and now Eli Roth's 'Cabin Fever', an affectionately nasty celebration of everything which bled, oozed and suppurated in 'Friday the 13th', 'The Burning', the 'Evil Dead' films, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', 'Night of the Living Dead', and 'The Thing'.
Take a cabin. By a lake. In the woods. In redneck country. Introduce some self-centred college kids who are into drinking, drugs and premarital sex, and then have them killed one after the other by a relentless, unseen killer. The plot of 'Cabin Fever' is familiar from any number of films from horror's golden age, and is full of references to them – but in Eli Roth's film the killer is not a man, or even a monster, but a flesh-eating virus, and it is able to kill only because the co-eds are too squeamish to deal sensibly with it and too selfish to cooperate. So here the horror (and comedy) arises out of failings and foibles that are all too human, with the virus serving merely to expose a much deeper sickness in the principal players, and in the end there is the grisly satisfaction of seeing everybody get no more or less than what they deserve.
'Cabin Fever' features a moody soundtrack combining music from David Lynch's favourite composer, Angelo Badalamenti, and songs by David Hess from 'Last House on the Left'. The putrescent body horror is carefully balanced by a hilarious script involving disgruntled bowling alley employees, reason-challenged hillbillies, ineffectual cops, and a Berkeley dopehead nicknamed Grim (Eli Roth in a cameo). There's a typically (for the 1970s, at least) doom-laden apocalyptic ending, followed by a brilliantly throwaway gag – and then one final pay-off after the credits have rolled. In short, 'Cabin Fever' is old-school horror, a form of unadulterated entertainment harking back to a decade when mutilation, murder and mad malevolence seemed somehow more innocent.
It's Got: A deputy obsessed with partying, a bearded hillbilly with a rifle for niggers, an update of the duelling banjo scene from Deliverance, and a whole lot of flies.
It Needs: To be seen in a big audience - this is a crowd movie.
Alternatives:Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th, House of 1000 Corpses, Last House on the Left, Night of the Living Dead, The Burning, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thing
A seamless pastiche of 1970s and early 1980s horror, resulting in a blend of mean-spiritedness, gore and comedy that is truly infectious.