Friday, April 15, 2005
2004's surprise hit horror movie was a little film called Cabin Fever. I've just managed to see it on DVD ... as usual with this sort of film, it's hard to know quite what to expect. Its antecedents would appear to be things like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Evil Dead and The Blair Witch Project, but it comes over as a ppor relation to these and also somewhat confused in which direction it wants to take. The main problem is the script. The idea is great: an isolated cabin in the woods, and five horny teenagers arrive there intent on partying (three boys, two girls) but then a sick-looking hermit comes calling, and soon the water is infected and the kids start to succumb to a flesh-eating sickness one by one. There's some interesting concepts here: the girl who first gets sick is being fondled by her boyfriend when he discovers that she has blood on her leg ... as her leg is dissolving. The same girl then gets the best make-up effect in the film when we see her eaten-away face at the end. The claustrophobia of the cabin setting starts off well, but then there seem to be hundreds of people within walking distance of the place, so it's perhaps not quite so isolated after all. Then there's the locals - deliberately played as Chainsaw-like sub-intelligent types - who go after the kids once they discover they are sick ... The problem is that the film loses its focus quite quickly. It takes a long time to get going, for the kids to arrive at the cabin and for the loony, infected hermit to vomit blood all over their jeep. Then the sickness starts slowly and takes forever to get anywhere. Finally, when what we really want is for all the kids barring one to have become crazed zombie-types, it doesn't happen. Instead the film veers off into the police coming to take over the situation, a random car ride and collision with a deer, one of the kids being taken to hospital ... and finally an ending snatched straight out of Night of the Living Dead. It's a fun and undemanding watch, and not really scary. There are some nice moments, and some gross outs with vomiting blood and crazed dogs, but overall the the film tends not to hang together coherently in the final half hour or so. It's a shame as the two girls are very watchable (and manage to get their clothes off several times along the way) and the boys are likewise good looking and affable types. Certainly, watching the making-of feature, you get the impression that these folks all had their hearts in the right place, and the homages to the films of the 70s are certainly there. I think what it needed was a firmer hand on the script to make sure the focus remained steady, and perhaps greater attention to the ending - for my money always the most critical part of a film. In summary, it's not a bad little film, but in some ways it's not downright awful enough to be true drunken Friday night hilarity fare, but also it's not quite good enough to stand alongside the classics of the genre.