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'Cabin Fever'

'Cabin Fever' is a creep show

Friday, September 12, 2003

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Some day, if actress Jordan Ladd achieves superstardom, an entertainment channel will unearth a film clip showing her humble horror beginnings. They'll cue up the scene from 2003's "Cabin Fever" where her character says, "That guy asked for our help. We lit him on fire."

 
 

'Cabin Fever'

RATING: R for strong violence and gore, sexuality, language and brief drug use.

STARRING: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd

DIRECTOR: Eli Roth

   
 

Whoa. You don't get to deliver lines like that every day.

Ladd also gets to be the first in her fivesome to be infected with flesh-eating bacteria, turning the fetching blonde into a bloody, rotting mess who is exiled by her so-called friends to a shed outside the isolated cabin they've rented. Her character, Karen, is bolted in for the night before meeting her frightful fate. Yes, as her pal Marcy (Cerina Vincent) had said only hours before: "Trauma bonds people."

Welcome to "Cabin Fever," a horror picture with a snappy name and gruesome, graphic depiction of the aforementioned necrotizing fasciitis, proper name for the very very bad bug. This is no Learning Channel documentary, though, but a movie with today's horror hallmarks: A fusillade of f-words, beer and the promise of pot, nudity, sex and one creepy campfire story about torture, dismemberment and bowling. Yes, bowling.

"Cabin Fever" was co-written and directed by Eli Roth who, the press notes say, based the story on his personal experiences with bacteria "that nearly ate half his face off while traveling in Iceland." He's crafted a story about five college grads -- good-looking, lusty couple Marcy and Jeff (Joey Kern); Karen and platonic but pining pal Paul (Rider Strong); and Bert (James DeBello), the requisite drunken goofball -- who rent a mountain cabin.

Things start to get weird when they stop at a general store and the long-haired boy out front bites one of them. That's nothing compared with their late-night visitor -- a dying, infected man who appears on their doorstep pleading for help. They show him no mercy and soon find themselves marooned and fearful of the fast-moving killer.

"Cabin Fever" might have been a horror happening if it didn't insist on wallowing in the gruesome gutter with rabid dogs, trigger-happy mountain men and more buckets of blood than "ER" uses in the February sweeps. A couple of times, perhaps in an homage to his mentor David Lynch, Roth literally tints his image red. There is, to his credit, an especially effective and hair-raising scene where the sound of a razor scraping over infected skin is enough to give you the heebie-jeebies.

Roth exercises virtually no restraint, uses humor too sparingly or in a juvenile manner and fails to make a convincing case that these five -- especially Bert -- were fast friends. That's an important failing if their bond is to get nibbled away as quickly as Karen's face.

"Cabin Fever" has both a you-can-see-it-coming twist and a nice uptick in its final moments and is far more original than "Jeepers Creepers 2." But that is faint praise.


Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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