Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cabin Fever

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! When are we going to learn that cabins located in, or around, wooded areas are inherently evil?

Cabin Fever – 2 out of 5

I watched this Eli Roth film when it came out in 2002 and thought, “Wow…that movie really sucked.” However, I recently picked it up for my girlfriend, because she’s a horror nerd, and while she was at work one day and I had the place to myself, I took a look at the DVD sitting on our TV stand and thought, “Hmm, I remember this movie being horrible but maybe I should revisit it to see if there’s a chance that, since it came out, my tastes have changed and I may enjoy it.”

Ultimately, my tastes have not changed and I still find the film to be absolutely horrible. However, I did realize that, this time around, there are a couple of aspects I enjoyed that I didn’t the first time.

For those who haven’t seen the film, Cabin Fever tells the story of some teens going to spend a weekend in a cabin in the woods and, just like in real life when people go to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, horrible stuff happens and people die—never EVER go to a cabin in the woods and always destroy nearly unspoiled nature when you see it because bad stuff always lurks within it.

At night when the campfire starts and the beer starts flowing like smooth jazz that mysterious appears when silk sheets suddenly take up residence in a bedroom, the group gets a fright when a hermit stumbles upon them and starts puking up blood from a mysterious flesh-eating virus he contracted. Reacting in a perfectly sane and calm way, the kids immediately attack the man and set him on fire. Pretty soon, the group of friends have the startling realization that they are, one-by-one, getting sick with the virus and tempers start to flair. It’s not long after the flesh starts to fall from their bones do the deaths and bodies start to pile up that the disease starts to spread beyond their cabin.

Lesson here kids, setting fire to a stranger only sometimes solves your problems.

**Warning: This review will contain major spoilers**

The one thing that kept me from enjoying this film is the fact that I just plain felt the film lacked any real sense of balance as it didn’t know whether it was a horror film, a dark comedy, or a clichéfest of horror film mainstays that we’ve seen time and time again in far better projects. However, I have yet to see an Eli Roth film that actually feels like it had some vague concept of balance—I always think of that awful film Hostel and how the first half is all about pointless sex and gratuitous nudity and the last half is all about gore porn.

Roth’s films always feel like he begins writing them one day, forgets about them as he goes off to write another film and then quits that one to go back to the first one with a different idea and just starts writing where he left off. Unlike his other films, this one doesn’t have a sudden and jarring change that just feels out-of-balance with the entire film. Shockingly, this usual dynamic didn’t throw me violently out of the film like watching Hostel did but it doesn’t make experiencing the film that much easier as you jump back and forth from really bad comedy, eccentric oddities, tired horror film staples that make the film look like a “color by numbers” production and actual real attempts at making drama and terror.

Sweet!  It's Trip from Detroit Rock City!

Another element that kept me from enjoying this film the first time I saw it was the acting. While the film has actors I enjoy like Jordan Ladd, James DeBello and Joey Kern (the man who will always be one of the stoner kids at the beginning of Super Troopers to me), I also had to deal with truly awful acting from Cerina Vincent (you know her as the nude foreign exchange student in Not Another Teen Movie) and Rider Strong, who is giving a performance that is the exact opposite of his last name. While it may not be Strong’s fault that he has a painfully unbearable voice that makes his character come off as a weakling or a cartoon mouse, his lack of screen presence and absence of effort he gives off only makes his character that much more of an hindrance and shows he doesn’t have the chops to carry the film on his own. Any scene where he’s trying to take authority over the deteriorating fellowship of the group becomes either a moment of unintentional hilarity as my mind floated back to memories of Sgt. Laverne Hooks and her sweet, soft voice in the Police Academy movies or moments of god-awful annoyance as my mind floated back to memories of Sgt. Laverne Hooks and her mousy, annoying voice (I had a love/hate relationship with that character’s voice).

"I like talking to you.  You make my voice sound less feminine and weak."
(Truth be told, that line could have gone to either one of them.)

The cast only gets worse when Eli Roth decides to put himself in it with some of the most unnecessary characters since the invention of Jar Jar Binks. His performance is even harder to deal with as he delivers in a way that makes a teenager with a flip-camera making a horrible skit for YouTube look like they are contenders for an Academy Award. It’s possible that Roth’s stereotype, discount drama coach-like stoner character is meant to be a part of the comedy side of this film but his performance is horrible on such a level that I thought it was meant to belong in the horror side of Cabin Fever.

"Hey, I'm here to make my film exponentially more difficult to sit through!"

Re-watching the film eleven years later, I have come to appreciate some elements to the film that I didn’t care for the first time I watched it. For example, despite the fact that nearly every aspect of the story is generic as all fuck within the genre of horror, Roth actually does a decent job of building up the terror and threat level of the virus with the hermit getting infect and ultimately ending up in the hillbillies’ water supply. This setup was done very well, even though it's not much different from any other horror film with such a plot device…and of course, it gets unraveled as Roth goes back to a plot that makes no sense as he shoe-horns the predictable horror film sex scene in (because when all your friends are dying of a flesh-consuming virus, sex—and not getting the fuck out of dodge—is the main priority), the fact that these characters seem to be completely brain-dead as they are incapable of noticing (or feeling) gigantic open sores on their body (or capable of making a single, mildly intelligent decision or show a little sanity) and, as well as, deciding to thrown in a mullet-ed young boy who desires pancakes, likes to practice karate outdoors when a normal person would do in a garage and seems to put off a vibe that it is okay to place appendages within biting range despite every interaction with this kid has ended with someone being bitten.

Albeit, if you're dumb enough to get within striking range of a kid that looks like this,
you deserve the chomp because he looks like he's carrying a new strain of tetanus.

Then you have to deal with the groan inducing “gag” that seemed to be the only reason Roth made this movie. I’m speaking of course about the N-bomb joke the film ends with and results in making me hate this movie more than I already did up until that point. Basically, when the group of kids arrive and hit the local convenient store, they see a rifle on the wall and ask what’s it for, the man who we are suppose to assume is a card-carrying member of the KKK says it’s for the “niggers.” Because, it’s assumed that if you are from the country and are white, you automatically are racist—of course, comments on Facebook and YouTube by white guys from the country do little to help dispel that stereotype.

Awesome!  Lex from Detroit Rock City is also in this?!?  Maybe I was
wrong about his movie.

When the film comes to its painfully predictable conclusion that culminates in a way that unnecessary sequels can be produced (and they were), a group of black individuals enter the store; our once believed racist store owner grabs the gun and we are left to believe a lynching is about to occur…and then the old man gives the gun to the group and says, “What’s up, my niggas?” and we see they are friends. This moronic scene alone is enough to make me believe that the rest of the entire film was just an afterthought to Eli Roth just so he can do one of the most predictable jokes in existence. This gag basically became Roth’s “fuck you” to the audience as he is nearly coming right out and saying, “Ha, the joke's on you! You just watched an hour and half horror film just for a really bad joke about racism that had, throughout the entire movie, no merit, place or presence in the story.”

An hour and a half, no scares, shitty acting, no character development, no dramatic
tension, and weak plot...all for this?

Going back and taking a re-examining look at Cabin Fever some years later has shown that, while I found some stuff okay, it’s still not my cup of tea—in fact, it’s not even a beverage that I want to even consider on the menu of movies. I dug how Roth developed the potential for scares and the breeding ground for his cliché horror film storytelling when it concerned how the virus is spread and how it got to the point of becoming an epidemic but the rest of the film was still just terrible to me. The lack of consistency with what type of film it wanted to be, the one-dimensional characters who are so flat they were barely worth giving names to or the time for their minor amounts of backstory that are given.  There's also the terrible acting, and a really bad ending gag made the film more of an annoyance than a joy for me to sit through. Not to mention that Roth pulls the ultimate horror film cliché ending that has been done in more horror stories than I can count; I’m talking about the sole survivor stating about how he/she survived only to die in an unexpected, barely ironic way. Eli Roth makes this ending so obvious that the character shouldn’t have bothered to yell, “I lived!” and just yelled, “At this point, I am alive but this set-up is so obvious that I am going to die in a way that doesn’t involve the actual plot—I am trying to say that I will die in a way that doesn’t involve the virus but in a completely different way entirely.” And then the character dies in a different way.

He made her eat a bunch of mushrooms because he saw some cops and now
wants the money for the shrooms.

This dynamic is exactly why I wasn’t a fan of this movie the first time I saw it (even with all my other reasons). As hard as Eli Roth tries to make this film really strange, it really just becomes an effort to try and mask that the movie really is no different from any other horror film about teens going to a cabin in the woods; it just ends up being one big predictable cliché after one big predictable cliché after another. If you have even the most remote understanding of the horror film formula, you can—with a near perfect accuracy—state what’s going to happen next, who will die of what and how the film will end. This has to be the one time I’ve gone back to revisit a film and found that my original assessment of the film went almost unchanged.

"Put this in the trailer.  It'll get the asses in the theater seats and make them forget
that they are watching a horror film that is no different than several hundred
other horror films that have been produced." - Eli Roth

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