Five friends celebrate finishing college by grabbing a load of beer and hiring a cabin in the deep, dark woods. The locals are kinda weird - (just listen to that strummin' banjo on the soundtrack) - but a far more terrifying evil awaits: a flesh-eating virus, caught off a dying stranger who wanders into their midst begging for help.
Starting off as yet another '70s-throwback horror flick then slowly sh(r)edding its skin to emerge in its own beastly image, Cabin Fever is a movie built around a handful of unforgettable moments. One involves a bit of masturbatory fumbling. Another finds a startling use for a harmonica. And a third will put you off shaving for life. All three have been banging around Roth's fevered brain - and each new draft of his script - for 10 years now. It's easy to see why.
The rest of the movie never quite screams as loudly as these vicious exclamation marks, but effectively mixes sniggers and shudders throughout. Highlights include the inspired decision to use David Hess' incongrously melodic ballads from Wes Craven's 1972 rape-and-revenger The Last House On The Left, and strong turns from actresses Jordan Ladd and Cerina Vincent, the latter not slow to get her kit off. Gratuitous? Probably, but 99 percent of horror flicks regard sex and violence like kids view Big Macs and fries - staple ingredients, best served together. Less successful is Roth's insistence on trying to reference all his favourite movies from the `70s and early `80s, and his slightly fumbled attempt to trace the group's disintegration when self-survivalism kicks in. We're not talking bad, just disappointing, given his fave movie is John Carpenter's The Thing.
Interestingly, Roth got the idea for Cabin Fever when he developed a skin infection of his own, waking in the night to find chunks of skin on his pillow. He's been obsessed with skincare products ever since. After watching this celluloid-dipped-in-claret nasty, you will be too.
Part template horror, part terrors new, Cabin Fever's sticky set-pieces crawl under your scalp to hatch nightmares in the brain. Will leave you feeling nauseous in all the right ways.
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