Today's Pick: Cabin Fever (2002)
I think Cabin Fever might actually be the worst film I recommend this year. After rewatching it for this series, I found my opinion had shifted pretty heavily from when I first saw it over ten years ago. What I once found to be shocking and original was now kind of simple and tame. The only prevailing factor that still remained from my memory of the film was how ugly it was. Not just in terms of the gore, but in the characters, the look of the film and the overall tone. But now, I actually find that ugliness to be the reason I still really enjoy watching Cabin Fever.
The most revealing component this time around was my view on the main characters: they are all awful people. That's not to say that the actors portraying them are bad, because they aren't. The characters themselves are written to be unlikable douches. While there's some comedic value to mined from James DeBello's Burt, he's still an asshole who doesn't help the sickly drifter in the woods, even after he accidentally shoots him. Rider Strong as Paul is the nice guy hero who can't sack up and go after his childhood crush (when I was fifteen, this character totally spoke to me. Now that I'm a grown up, I realize he's just a cowardly loser), and really doesn't offer much help once things start getting all virus-y. Joey Kern's Jeff is played off as the prick of the bunch, and while his attitude does back that up, he's actually the most sensible character. You still can't get behind him though because he's so shitty about how to handle things. Jordan Ladd as Karen is just too textbook sweet and naive that she comes off as stupid, and Cerina Vincent's Marcy is introduced by cursing at a young kid and telling him not to go to college. They even use the word "gay" as a derogatory term, something that would catch a huge amount of heat if released today. These people suck!
But on this viewing, I actually found those abrasive qualities to be a positive. This is a film where a killer virus goes all KNB EFX on some kids, and having you hate the characters instead of hoping they survive makes all the violence inflicted upon them even more cathartic. Every time one of them finally bit the dust, I was inwardly cheering. I don't think this was Eli Roth's intention, but that's exactly the kind of reaction I had this time around.
It's certainly a plus that the gore effects are an absolute treasure, and even manage to be periodically disturbing (if you've seen the film. two words: shaved legs). There's also a decent sense of humor about everything, punctuated with moments of weirdness that are trying way too hard ("Pancakes!", the bunny suit guy and bowling story come to mind). I can appreciate all of this though, because it makes for the kind of mess that you still like to stick your fingers into and squish around.
Cabin Fever is not a good movie, but it is a good movie to watch and laugh with (not laugh at. This isn't so-bad-it's-good material). It lets you tap into that mean part of yourself that wants to see a bunch of horrible kids get murdered, but all in the name of fun and playing pretend. Roth gets better with each film he makes (I will argue in defense of Hostel: Part II until I'm blue in the face), so it's nice to look back and see where he came from, if just to have a good chuckle.
Tomorrow's film is another feature directing debut from a horror superstar. No cabin this time, I promise! See you then!
31 Days of Drew 2 (2014)
31 Days of Drew (2013)