Cabin Fever

(Eli Roth, USA, 2003)


It may seem an old-fashioned remark to make, but I do tire sometimes of seeing solid little genre movies going about their business as if nothing happening on the contemporary world stage is even remotely relevant to their formulaic thrills and laughs.

So we get characters in American specials like Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003) and Tim Burton’s Big Fish (2003) hopping on planes, mastering complex foreign languages in an instant, and than barging into age-old cultures in order to shake things up with a little violent mayhem – a seemingly unconscious, unavowed fantasy projection of America’s actions in Iraq.

Things are no better in Australia. In recent films with fantasy or horror elements like Undead (2003) and Visitors (2003), bloodthirsty foreigners ride the high seas and menacing aliens are rounded up and slaughtered in compounds – with no sense that this might be a reflection (ironic or otherwise) on our refugee and detention centre crises.

Eli Roth’s low budget horror movie Cabin Fever certainly has juice; sadly, all it lacks is a decent brain.

At least this one bypasses the modern monolith of The Blair Witch Project (1999) in order to mine its inspiration from 1980s horror. The action takes place wholly in a cabin in isolated woods; a fever rampages and changes them one by one.

It’s not John Carpenter’s The Thing (1981) or Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers (1993); there is no political or social subtext here worth excavating. Horror movies were once critical and subversive. Cabin Fever is just one big show.

© Adrian Martin December 2003

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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