Cabin Fever (2002), rated R, paid to watch on Amazon
“A group of five college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.” IMDB synopsis
- IMDB 5.6/10
- Metacritic 56/100
- Rotten Tomatoes 63% critics, 44% audience
- Solee 3.5/5
- Mikey 3/5
WARNING: THIS REVIEW IS FULL OF SPOILERS!
Solee: So, we watched the original Cabin Fever last night. When you settled on this movie you told me, “I think this is going to be gory.” Is gory a category you enjoy? If so, what is it you like about this sub-genre of horror movies?
Mikey: I did not lie to you, to be sure! I don’t care for gore. In general it is one of those things that I just am not interested in, but not particularly put off by. I do avert my eyes from things that are too awful, but it takes pretty awful to have that effect on me (or anything, however mild, involving eyes). So the gore, and the fact that I was fairly convinced that was the sole “merit” to this movie, is the reason I didn’t watch it all these years since it came out. I don’t need to watch something for the purpose of seeing gore. But people have said it was good, so I decided it was time to see.
Solee: Because of the gore and the lack of taking itself seriously, this movie reminded me–in a very vague sense–of a movie we watched last year. Can you guess which one?
Mikey: Maybe the same one I thought of at a point or two… House of 1000 Corpses?
Solee: YES! It is a bizarre combination of slyly hilarious and really disturbing. I’m a little concerned at how much I like that combination. House of 1000 Corpses did end up being my all-month favorite last year.
Mikey: I KNOW! I don’t think this was anywhere near on par, but the stylistic similarity was there. I think it’s the throwback to 70’s/80’s grungy horror. Always with a knowing wink, though. This was unquestionably one of those “director loves old movies from the genre so steals all he can from them” scenarios.
Solee: Which I do NOT have a problem with. Especially when it’s done well. This was … not done terribly. One of my notes is that the characters were all very tropey (the rich guy jerk, the good guy, the sexy girl, the girl next door, the redneck were all represented) BUT their stereotypes were established with just-next-door-to-normal things. For example, the loser/immature redneck left the campfire unattended to go shoot things and pee in the woods.
Mikey: Well, I think there was some reality and natural behavior brought into it. Like the good guy and his unrequited love, the way that played out was not strictly to trope, more like just a realistic situation. It was never over-the-top like “she loves him now” or “she thinks he’s a loser”, just sort of muddled.
Solee: Maybe that’s it. It felt less stereotypical because they acted like real people, not characters. For part of the time, that is.
Mikey: I think the comedic take on things gives you lots of leeway… if something is a stereotype, well you’re just kidding. If it’s not, then good for you for dodging stereotypes! If a scene comes across silly instead of good, that’s fine too. It’s the Chandler Technique.
Solee: Clever strategy. It worked on me! One of my favorite characters was Dennis. You know what they say about Dennis, right?
Mikey: Don’t sit next to him.
Solee: Yep! That was one of the jokes that had a callback later … what was that called?
Mikey: That’s a Brick Joke. They had two major ones in this movie, and it made them very funny to call way back to something you saw an hour ago, out of the blue.
Solee: I feel like Brick Jokes are a sign that they writer/director are clever and have a sense of humor. Which then makes the whole movie better. Anyway, what did you think of the plot? Unknown zombie-like pathogen meets gang of college kids on week-long vacation in the woods. Did the story work for you?
Mikey: One of the reasons I never saw this movie before is that I knew what it was about in a vague sense (an ordinary disease, no monsters or zombies), and I didn’t see how that sounded very interesting. But in practice, it actually was interesting as the driver to all kinds of crazy situations. All the quarantine madness and people violently protecting themselves against infection. Kind of the same issues as zombies, just with nobody (usually) trying to infect you intentionally. Or eat your brains. So I think it was a good idea for a movie, very different than anything else.
Solee: Throw in the fact that the locals are all loco and it was the perfect recipe for violent hi-jinks.
Mikey: Yes, it had to take place in this really goofy world of nutso people to really be fun, much like House of 1000 Corpses. You can probably make any story interesting by making all the people nuts.
Solee: It’s easy to take it too far or at least get the balance wrong and make those over the top characters ruin the movie though. Did you have a favorite bit in the movie?
Mikey: Hmm. I don’t know if it was actually fun enough for me to have a favorite bit that stands out. That’s why I saw it wasn’t on par with the other movie… it was all riding around just below my level of deep appreciation. Like one thing I noticed was that I should have loved Dennis’ “Pancakes!!” scene, and I didn’t. It was okay, but you’d think all that craziness would’ve been amazing, and it was just okay. That’s sort of how I feel about the whole thing. It might not have gone crazy down quite the right avenue for me.
Solee: I remember feeling like I was going to rate it poorly as the final credits rolled last night, but as I look back at my notes, I’m actually remembering it fondly. I think that’s because I’m remembering the goofy and forgetting some of the really nasty stuff. OH. I just remember the really nastiest scene (which I don’t think we can describe due to our possible audience) and … blegh. It was REALLY a gross movie.
Mikey: Yep, that was definitely the goal of the movie for sure. I was surprised actually at how tame it was though. I can recall two scenes that were really too gross (the other was in a bathtub), and other than that nothing really grossed me out. There must have been 20 gallons of blood vomited in this movie, and my only thought about that was “Man, vomiting blood is so much less disgusting than vomiting vomit!”
Solee: Hmmm … I think we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on that one. So the one thing I really didn’t like was all the instances of racism, sexism and homophobia being used as “jokes”. They weren’t the “we need to be better” kind of jokes, either. Just straight up exclusionist type things. I think the movie could have been done just as well without them.
Mikey: I think the creators would use some excuses about how it takes place in the 80’s and it’s realistic and all that, and I think that’s bunko. It’s not a documentary. I think the clothes pretty much covered 80’s for us.
Solee: There’s a way to include some of that behavior to really develop a hateful character … but these weren’t the “bad guys” of the movie. They were the “heroes”, if you will. Yes, you were supposed to see that they were being dumb, but it gave off a “boys will be boys” vibe that I dislike intensely.
Mikey: I totally agree, but one other factor does remain: as modern as a number like 2002 sounds, it’s actually 15 years ago. I suspect these same people would do things differently today! The world is changing fast.
Solee: I think you’re right about that. And how on Earth did 2002 get to be 15 years into the past? It was, like, LAST YEAR that we were all worried Y2K would cause all the nukes in the world to go off.
Mikey: I think Y2K DID happen, and it caused a massive time-space distortion. That’s the only reasonable explanation.
Solee: Ha! True story. So … speaking of the distant past, Rider Strong (of Boy Meets World sidekick fame) is one of the main characters in this movie. That really threw me for a loop. I couldn’t stop seeing him as Shawn Hunter. I kept waiting for Topanga to show up.
Mikey: I reviewed a Topanga movie (that was aMAHzing) a few years ago in BHE! Hey, sudden realization speaking of the distant past: 2002 is as long ago as 1987 was before 2002. So they were making this movie about as far before them as they are before us. Or something. Deep.
Solee: It’s that nostalgia loop, like I was talking about for IT, only a 15 year loop instead of a 35 year one.
Mikey: I want to throw down real quick with some major writing issues I had with this movie before we quit. Just to get these out there: after Bert met the infected stranger and warned him away, he acted like nothing had happened and they all just had a bonfire until eventually he showed up. The guy was laying like 50 feet away and had already seen their cabin. Super weird. Also, you can’t make a car stop working by hitting it a few times with a bat! All the cars in this movie were crazy fragile. Also … oh I forgot the third one. These are some things that were really bugging me and seemed like major flaws in the writing.
Solee: It was a little weak in places. Like when the sexy girl decided to “go for help” the next morning and they just let her wander off into the woods alone in her tight, tight jeans.
Mikey: Slo-mo jeans!
Solee: Indeed. So when you combine all the issues and all the goriness and all the silly jokes … where does it fall on the rating scale for you?
Mikey: I was surprised at how well-done this was. It definitely held my interest (I especially enjoyed trying to track who all was infected). Oh that reminds me of a huge problem: the disease’s incubation rate was both totally random and ludicrously fast (when it wasn’t slow)! This was not a realistic situation. Anyway, I found myself totally engrossed and enjoying it, but I also respect that it wasn’t super great either. So that lands us right where you’d expect: at a solid 3.
Solee: I was going to give it a 3 last night, but I think now I want to give it a 3.5. This movie obviously knew it wasn’t going to be the next Great American Movie, and it used humor to make up for it in a way that worked on me. That being said, it was WAY too gory for me. I can see how some people would really enjoy it, though. And it was pretty polished all around. Except for that terribly terrible fake deer at the end!
Mikey: Oh, that crazy deer. So do you think this movie would work without the gore? I guess it’d be more of a comedy.
Solee: That’s a good question and I think … no. The comedy is only funny because it’s the contrast to horrific violence and gore. Without the counterpoint effect, it would just be corny. Some of those jokes were almost punny.
Mikey: Everybody loves a pun!
Mikey: Do you want to close by sharing Solee’s Rules For Infection?
Solee: Heck yeah! Solee’s Rules for Infection are easy. 1) Don’t get infected. 2) If you DO get infected, you’re done for. Humanely, but immediately. #SorryNotSorry Too many zombie movies get rolling because someone can’t say goodbye to a loved one who has clearly been exposed to the virus. Instead of a quick, clean bullet to the brain, they let them linger on in pain, usually infecting lots of other people. NOT COOL. I will say that these kids almost did a decent job of this. But then they didn’t. And look where it got them.
Mikey: It scares me that I live with you and sometimes get colds.
Solee: You just better hope you don’t get a cold during the zombie apocalypse. The thing is, it’s NEVER symptoms that really look like something innocuous. Even I wouldn’t have taken out the Girl Next Door when she was feeling nauseous. That’s a perfectly normal reaction to watching someone burn to death. Once it was clear she had what the hermit guy had … game over. It’s always that someone is trying to bite other people’s faces off or their own faces are sliding off in puddles of goo and their loved ones are saying “Oh, I’m sure he’ll be alright soon.” NO.
Mikey: Okay, so it’s a rash I should be afraid of having. I will never let you see if I get one.
Solee: THAT’S EVEN WORSE! Hahaha! Maybe we should avoid zombie/virus movies for a bit. What’s coming up next?
Mikey: Oh no, my arm is itching… I mean IT’S NOT IT’S FINE. Let’s just go watch Patient Seven.
(We watched Patient Seven via Amazon Prime in case you want to see it before tomorrow’s review!)