Horror Film Review: Cabin Fever (dir by Eli Roth)


When this Boy Meets World
Boy Meets World
Wandering down this road, that we call life
Is what we’re doin’
It’s good to know I have friends that will always
Stand by me
When this Boy Meets World

I imagine that I should probably apologize to Rider Strong for starting this review by quoting the theme song from the final few seasons of Boy Meets World.  I’m sure that when Strong agreed to star in the original Cabin Fever, he was hoping that the playing Paul would take him far away from his best-known role of Shawn Hunter.  But I have to admit that whenever I think of Cabin Fever (which, admittedly, is not often) I always think of it as being Boy Meets Flesh Eating Virus.

Cabin Fever tells the story of a group of stupid college students, including Rider Strong, who decide to spend Spring Break at a remote cabin in the woods.  They’ve got weed, beer, and plans for a wild, sex-fueled weekend.  Unfortunately, the majority of them also end up with a flesh-eating virus.  It turns out the virus has been infecting people and animals all around the cabin.  People are going crazy as their flesh decays and peels off of their bones.  It’s a messy virus.  With the police struggling to contain the spread, a group of locals have decided that it’s up to them to kill off anyone who is infected.

One member of the group grabs the beer and runs off so that he can spend the weekend drunk and in isolation,  The other members of the group are stranded in the cabin and the surrounding woods.  Bodies are falling apart and dogs are eating their owners.  It’s Boy Meets Pandemic.

This was Eli Roth’s directorial debut and he didn’t hold back on the gore.  While we really don’t know much about the college students in the cabin (beyond the fact that they’re all dumbasses and one of them is played by Rider Strong), we learn everything that you could possibly want to know about what that flesh-eating virus does to its victims.  The film might as well be called “Nom nom nom,” because it’s all about eating flesh.  Roth is also shameless about paying homage (or ripping off, depending on how much you like Roth) to the horror films that influenced him.  Night of the Living Dead comes to mind, especially the ending.

(Personally, I like the fact that, with his first film, Eli Roth declared himself to be a lover of horror.  Cabin Fever was released in 2002, long before the current mainstream horror boom.  Eli Roth was openly celebrating horror at a time when many critics were still writing it off.)

Cabin Fever is a hit-or-miss affair, with the emphasis on miss.  The virus is scary because it’s so nasty but the characters themselves are so boring that most viewers won’t care when they get infected.  I did like Giuseppe Andrews’s performance as a weird deputy but otherwise, no one is the cast makes much of an impression until after they’ve lost their skin.  They’re walking down this road that we call life …. and now they’re dead.

Viewed today, of course, it’s hard not to compare the flesh-eating virus to COVID or Monkeypox or whatever the latest disease is.  If Cabin Fever were made today, the gun-toting locals would have been the heroes and the college students would have been the villains for daring to try to leave the cabin.  Yesterday’s villains and today’s heroes and vice versa.  For many, walking down this road that we call life has never felt more uncertain, even without a flesh-eating virus to worry about.

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