Twitter Plot Summary: A group of teens are taken out by a flesh eating disease. There is, however, still a cabin in the woods.
The cabin in the woods trope has been done to death, let’s be honest. And er, no pun intended of course. Cabin Fever, the feature film directorial debut of Eli Roth, uses that basic trope in order to kick off this particular story before spinning off and putting his own stamp on things. Here, a group of five teens head to a cabin in the woods (standard stuff) to celebrate the completion of their college finals. They encounter an infected man covered in blood, boils and peeling skin. They turn away his request for help, mostly because he vomits blood everywhere. Shortly thereafter they start to succumb to the infection. Deaths follow, as do misunderstandings with the locals which will cause its own fair share of troubles.
There are fun twists to the usual genre tropes, all by making the teenagers a touch more aware of their surroundings than the usual teen horror crowd, socially aware and aghast when a shopkeeper states that the gun behind the counter is for, shall we say, a term generally considered offensive to a particular group of people. There are more examples of subverting expectations littered throughout – the police officer isn’t suspicious about the blood covering their vehicle, the hillbillies aren’t necessarily out to kill you, and just for once there isn’t a strange presence inhabiting the cabin. This all links to an overall blackly comic tone where the laughs are almost as frequent as the scares.
For the most part the performances are typical for this type of horror film in that the core cast are required to do little beyond look scared, occasionally get naked and shout at each other a lot. The story too, despite the fun elements of subversion, does fairly little to distinguish itself. The characters are two dimensional and there’s little time given to explain the reasons behind the virus. Furthermore, the way the plot unfolds is little more than an exercise in throwing the most amount of gore at the screen in the shortest space of time.
And what gore it is – it’s a horror fanatic’s delight, the skin peeling nature of the infection giving cause for moment after moment of blood and unpleasantness. Faces are eaten away, the claret flows freely and various sharp implements are used to attack, threaten and protect in equal measure. The violence is not as sadistic as many more recent horror films (the Evil Dead remake in particular), but it picks its moments carefully and knows precisely when to lure the audience in with a gore-filled close-up.
Roth’s direction mostly pays homage to the horror films of yore rather than branching out and doing its own thing, but when the final result is of the quality of Cabin Fever this becomes a positive bonus rather than something which affects your enjoyment. So it’s a film of two halves, a horror movie that references the genre’s past whilst pushing forward and providing a modern perspective in a post-Scream world where everybody knows the tropes and how these stories usually develop. While there are a few elements that stick to those expectations, there are plenty more that do not, which does it no small amount of favours.