A group of five friends are terrorized at their getaway cabin. A remake of the 2002 film, 'Cabin Fever'.
February 12th, 2016
14 years from the release of the original Cabin Fever to the release of the remake. It’s not the horrendous remounting of the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s not the dreadful re-imagining of Carpenter’s triumph The Fog.
It’s just Cabin Fever. But I happen to really like that 2002 film, thus…
A big thought as my growing fears were confirmed: Why, oh why have you forsaken me again, movie gods? And why so darn quickly? At least The Fog waited 25 years. And A Nightmare on Elm Street waited 26. But 14?
Well, a quick rundown on my history with the original Cabin Fever (and Eli Roth’s feature directorial debut). I saw it in the theatre. I loved it. I touted its wares to all my friends and they then rushed out to see it. This was followed by lots of, “What’s wrong with you?” (They clearly didn’t find the same joy that I did). Although I immediately purchased it on DVD when the time came, I’ve never seen it again since that original viewing (one giant, flesh and blood reason is discussed below).
Here we are 14 years later and let’s just say that my friends may possibly – once again ask me, “What’s wrong with you?”
God help me, I loved the remake.
You should already know the story. If not: Five college friends make for a remote cabin deep in the woods to enjoy a nice week-long getaway – to be filled with sex, drugs and drinking – a way to let off some steam from grueling college courses. Somewhere in the woods, there’s a terrifying and terrible disease which is spread by contact with an infected person’s blood – and eventually through the water. So basically there’s no escape. Things become difficult in the cabin when a nearby infectious hermit comes looking for help. It all goes downhill for the five friends as the infection spreads inside. On top of that, there are some vengeful hillbillies who want to make sure that these diseased kids don’t spread any of their city cooties beyond their own picturesque cabin retreat.
There are changes and updates of course, but all of your favorite bits are intact (the bathtub scene, the weird-ass locals, the crazed German Shepard). But when you get right down to it, this remake is so close to the original, that it becomes ultimately pointless (not Gus Van Sant Psycho pointless, but redundant just the same). And for the life of me, how could you lose the true weirdness of the original by removing certain traits of the creepy kid at the roadside store? Little Dennis in the original was a hysterically creepy “karate kid”. In the remake, he’s still uber-odd, but no martial arts. That just won’t do.
With that pseudo-criticism out of the way, it sure is a helluva good time!
As in the original, it’s an ensemble cast of talented young actors. They’re believable and all of the characters hold their particular place as horror stereotypes – the frat boy (Jeff – played by Matthew Daddario), the nerd (Bert – played by Dustin Ingram), the loose chick (Marcy – played by Nadine Crocker), the goody-good girl (Karen – played by Gage Golightly) and the nice, shy guy (Paul – played by Samuel Davis). They’ll all be tested in this bloody survival situation with some faltering far earlier than their co-horts.
As the tension and terror reaches epic proportions, you’ll see specific moments of acting brilliance – none more impressive than with the two ladies. Gage Golightly is Karen (Jordan Ladd in the original), and once the “fingering” scene comes around, she goes into emotional overdrive. Her screaming as she is first locked in the bedroom and then her tired and terrified resignation as she’s quarantined in the shed – are those horror acting moments I so treasure – primal and absolutely from the gut. Quite honestly, her moments following the “fingering” are genuinely upsetting and will make you queasy.
As for Marcy (Nadine Crocker), the now-legendary bathtub scene (originated by Cerina Vincent) is nauseating. Crocker’s cries of pain, disgust and confusion – well, it makes for another moment of the audience saying, “How much more of this can I handle?” Her bloody retreat from the cabin following the bath is an acting triumph. She’s exposed in every single way, and it requires that Crocker pull from the depths of her guts and soul. It’s a damn impressive and sickening scene.
The gore is wonderful (if you like that sort of thing – I do) and these make-up effects will have you groaning, if not gagging. And I frankly can never, ever get enough of infection movies where one (or more) of the infected victims spews bloody and virus-filled pus out of their mouth. As germophobic as I can sometimes be, these moments give me pleasure – perhaps knowing that nothing amps up the danger and paranoia for the characters, more than projectile bodily fluid. Wow and ick.
What works in the remake (and I’m assuming in the original – since it’s been so darn long) is that the film doesn’t take itself so seriously. So when the characters make not-so-bright decisions, or choices which may seem out-of-this-world ridiculous under the circumstances (let’s have sex when we know there’s some sort of virus transmitted by touch), I’m still on board. In Cabin Fever, we’ll allow it. And the film’s keen and sick sense of humor makes a lot of these things okay.
And I’ll mention that the most grisly and deeply disturbing scene of the original (Jordan Ladd’s Karen and her wickedly vicious encounter with the infected dog) is different, but no less nauseating and painful to experience. The image of Karen (in the original) and her rotted lips, exposing her teeth and gums – stuck with me for many days, and eventually found a place on my personal list of the most disturbing horror images ever. While the remake doesn’t reach those same gag-worthy heights, this Karen’s demise is no-holds-barred and no easy pill to swallow. In a remarkable twist, in this most horrific of scenes, there’s still some tension-releasing humor. It may just be me, but building up to these moments – knowing what may be coming based on the original – I experienced some genuine anxiety.
The film is gorgeously shot – with sweeping views of the forever-deep forest (including a not-so-subtle homage to the opening credits of Kubrick’s The Shining). It’s all expertly done, with a really impressive and grand score by Kevin Riepl. Some of the music cues serve to make extra gruesome scenes even more unnerving.
In light of these new developments, and now that I’ve seen and greatly enjoyed this “pointless” but awesome remake, it’s time to take a revisit to a different (if strikingly similar) cabin from 14 years ago.
As for you folks, I highly recommend you set aside your, “Why did you do this?” questions for the powers-that-be and just enjoy a new – but awfully familiar – weekend in the woods. I know of a nice cabin – just don’t drink the water.
Cabin Fever (the remake) opened in select cities on February 12th, and is now available on demand.