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Lions Gate presents
Cabin Fever (2003)

"I want to go home!"
- Karen (Jordan Ladd)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: January 25, 2004

Stars: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd
Other Stars: Joey Kern, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello, Arie Verveen, Matthew Helms, Guiseppe Andrews, Hal Courtney, Eli Roth
Director: Eli Roth

Manufacturer: 3rd Sector
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and gore, sexuality, language and brief drug use
Run Time: 01h:32m:07s
Release Date: January 20, 2004
UPC: 031398110859
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+A A-

DVD Review

Cabin Fever was written and directed by Eli Roth, a rabid, hardcore horror film fanatic who has melded together elements from across the genre (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday The 13th, The Last House on the Left, The Shining, The Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, to say nothing of a nod or two to Deliverance), as well as broad stroke touches of Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Bringing all of these components together clearly presents the opportunity for a cluttery mess, but Roth has obviously done his homework and uncorks a doozy of a fun horror film that should make any genre fanboy (or girl) proud.

The premise finds five twenty-somethings heading to the mountains for a post-finals vacation, to spend the weekend at a creepy backwoods cabin that makes the one in Evil Dead look like five-star digs. The kids are, on the surface, the usual genre batch, featuring the good guy (Rider Strong), the cute girl (Jordan Ladd), the sexy girl (Cerina Vincent), the hunky guy (Joey Kern) and the obnoxious guy (James DeBello). Individual names, as in all good genre films, are irrelevant, because all characters generally are cut from clear, identifiable stock, and Roth, for the most part, sticks to convention here. What he doesn't do, however, is follow the rules once the group comes in contact with a woodsy hermit who has become infected with a ravenous flesh-eating virus. Roth's dispatching of characters, and the subsequent insanity that follows, is part of where the fun comes from in Cabin Fever. Before you know it, the virus has spread, and the one-time friends not only find themselves turning on each other, but having to fend off the demented rifle-toting locals and one really hungry dog.

First and foremost, Cabin Fever is undeniably a horror film at its very center, but there is a strong undercurrent of dark comedy throughout Roth's work, with odd sequences and snippets of weird dialogue constantly popping up here and there, even as very, very terrible things are happening onscreen. Crazed townsfolk, like the mullet-headed, pancake-loving Dennis (Matthew Helms) skitter in and out of scenes, as does Guiseppe Andrews' comic relief as Deputy Winston, who is always on the lookout for a good party.

As the blood and guts quotient increases. the indecision whether to laugh or cringe (or both) presents itself quite a bit here, and it builds up to Boy Meets World's Rider Strong (he was Shawn on that show) formally shedding the skin of his television past in a rain of blood and violence (including a nasty run in with a deer). Strong's love scene with Jordan Ladd's Karen culminates in one of the film's signature moments of "that is just so wrong" weirdness.

Roth isn't shy about lingering on the gory parts, and the outstanding work by KNB EFX, especially for a film made with a relatively meager budget, is relentless as the story builds. The scene where the lovely Cerina Vincent is shaving her legs in a bathtub is one of those great cringe moments I spoke of earlier, and Roth milks it for all its worth. The camera slowly follows the razor slowly moving up her leg a few times, and the viewer knows something really bad is about to happen, but when?

I guess I tend to really get excited about horror film such as Cabin Fever, and while Eli Roth isn't necessarily reinventing anything (in fact he seems to borrow ideas from a number of predecessors), he does exhibit the kind of endearing frenzy and fervor that are needed to revitalize an often stagnant genre that has fallen into franchise sequel-itis and predictability.

As a horror fan, films like Cabin Fever (as well as recent titles like Beyond Re-Animator, Dagon and Jeepers Creepers) have given me hope for the future of the genre. It should all be this much fun.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Cabin Fever is presented in a fine looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with colors that start off bright and slowly drift off into intentional desaturation and grain that shows up as the film progresses, to emulate the unique look of 1970s horror films. The print features natural fleshtones (hello, Cerina Vincent!) and generally solid black levels (except for the cave sequence in the final act).A few minor compression issues, but overall a very strong transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Lions Gates delivers the aural goods with a strong 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track, which uses the rear channels effectively to create a soundfield that is particularly well done and aggressive. The old standby jump scare musical stingers really come across with a punch, even when you know its coming. Bass is deep and clean, and things like gunshots are real wall-rattlers if your sub is on. Nathan Barr's score (as well as the few original Angelo Badalamenti compositions) are properly larger than life, and the standout mix here is a vibrant and pivotal element that enhances the presentation.

A 2.0 English surround track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Job, Serial Killing 101
1 Documentaries
5 Feature/Episode commentaries by Eli Roth, Jordan Ladd, Joey Kern, Rider Strong, Lauren Moews, Scott Kevan
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Pancackes
  2. Chick-Vision
  3. The Rotten Fruit
  4. Family Version
Extras Review: Lions Gate will never be accused of skimping on extras for the release of Cabin Fever, and it all starts with a head-spinning five (!) full-length, scene-specific commentaries. Did Cabin Fever really need 5 commentaries? Does any movie? Probably not, but there is definitely plenty to listen to on this one. Writer/director Eli Roth does one track on his own, and teams up with actor Joey Kern for one, actress Jordan Ladd for another, a somewhat more technical track with producer Lauren Moews and director of photography Scott Kevan, with the last pairing Roth with actor Rider Strong. That's a lot of chatter, folks. The good news is that Roth is never at a loss for words, and is without a doubt the best part of each commentary. My personal favorite was Roth's solo track, where he talks non-stop about his myriad of influences, his background and his pure love of horror films in general.

Cabin Fever: Beneath the Skin (28m:55s) is a solid and funny making-of, covering the effects, the gore, set design and even the problems involved with picking out the proper menacing dog. Music maestro Angelo Badalamenti gets some screentime, too, talking about his involvement in the project, and he even sits down to play his Finger Bang Misfire love theme. This a few steps above the usual puffumentary kind of thing found on most releases.

For cheap laughs, there is a Family Version (01m:11s), which is basically the only 81 seconds of the movie that don't have anything bad happening, and the Chick Vision option, which blocks out the nasty bits with a graphic of a pair of hands (as if you were peeking through your fingers).

More laughs are found with a set of three Eli Roth stop-action short films featuring The Rotten Fruit, the so-called "most popular band in the world"—picture Spinal Tap as played by various pieces of fruit. Definitely not for the kiddies (language, gore and sex—yes, an apple receives oral), these are twisted, funny little films. The three shorts collected here are:
The Battle of the Bands (05m:27s)
Snackster (03m:40s)
Room Service (03m:18s)

One of Cabin Fever's more distinct characters is Dennis (Matthew Helms), the weird mullet-haired kid who likes to bite people and who gets to utter the film's single most memorable line of dialogue ("Pancakes!"). In the appropriately titled Pancakes (01m:40s), Helms, who apparently is some kind of martial arts whiz, struts and flips around, all set to the manic song Gay Bar by Electric Six. Weirdly fun.

The disc is cut into 27 chapters, and features a theatrical trailer and subtitles (English and Spanish). As an added plus, the amaray case comes with a spiffy slipcase.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Writer/director Eli Roth pays homage to all manner of classic horror films in Cabin Fever, and the level of black comedy is neatly cross-balanced with buckets of meaty gore and projectile vomiting. Roth's slobbering fan-friendly admiration, or should I say hero worship, of all things horror makes Cabin Fever required viewing for genre fans.

Highly recommended.

 


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