Cabin Fever burst onto the horror scene in a big way this year-both as a brazenly self-assured debut for director Eli Roth, and as heir apparent to the title of Stoner Horror Film of Choice. It's effective mix of traditional horror themes, laugh out loud funny dialogue, and an overall quirkiness not seen in the genre since Raimi's Evil Dead films, earned it as many fans as it did detractors. Ask your average horror fan what they thought of the "Pancakes" scene (in which a pint-sized Joe Dirt look-alike does a slow motion martial-arts routine for no apparent reason other than for Roth's own amusement) and you'll either hear cries of "Brilliance" or "Shite". Personally, I'm in the former camp. Cabin Fever was easily the most fun I had at the cinema in 2003, and, after several (and I mean several!) viewings in the theater and at home, I have to say this is my pick for fave flick of the year.
The story is gloriously simple stuff; A group of college kids head out to the woods to spend a week in a cabin during a break from school. Almost as quickly as they unpack, they are confronted by a transient who's contracted some sort of flesh-eating virus, and in a panic, chase him away (after beating him up with a bat, lighting him on fire, and, earlier in the day, shooting him). The dying man flees into the woods, and, finally, succumbs to the virus, facedown in the local water supply. What follows is obvious to all but the most special of special ed students. This somewhat thin premise is simply a launching pad for loads of over-the-top deaths, hilariously eccentric characters, and increasingly paranoid and self-preservational behavior from the terrified protagonists.
Director Roth gives us a film that plays out like a horror fan's wet dream, with an abudance of gore, some welcome T&A (courtesy of the gorgeous Cerina Vincent), and comic relief that is actually funny without the ingratiating self-awareness of the post-Scream set. It's almost impossible not to look at Cabin Fever as something of a "mix-tape" of great horror moments as Roth, himself, points out virtually every scene in the film as some sort of homage to another, although his unique perspective gives these scenes an originality all there own. The film is clearly a horror nerd's loveletter to the genre.
The DVD from Lion's Gate features *FIVE commentary tracks, including an absolutely side-splitting group commentary by "The Guys" (Roth, Kern, DeBello, etc) where they spend the majority of the track lamenting over Jordan Ladd's refusal to show her breasts and salivating over a gloriously perverse slow motion shot of Cerina Vincent's tightly wrapped posterior. DeBello, in particular, spends most of his time talking about the strip joints he hung around in after the shooting day ended, while Kern and Roth tease him about his "crush" on Vincent. "The Girls" commentary is a bit more restrained, but still very funny in a sort of giggly hot-chicks talkin' horror sort of way. Ladd, in particular, seems pretty well informed in regards to the genre, and Vincent...well, she could talk about sales tax and I'd be intrigued. If it's answers to all of your questions about the film ("Why Pancakes?!") then it's the Roth solo commentary you seek. Roth is a magnificent personality, who's as funny as he is insightful. This man knows his horror, and I have to say that this is one of the best commentary tracks I've ever listened to. It's engaging, fun, and as comfortable as tossing back a few brews with an equally enthusiastic horror fan.
Lion's Gate and Roth definitely focused on making this a fun DVD, and that vibe permeates literally every extra, from the excellent behind the scenes documentary to the "Family Friendly" and "Chick" versions of the film, down to the inclusion of a handful of episodes from Roth's hilarious stop-motion series The Rotten Fruit. There's also a video for "Pancakes" which features an Asian guy doing some sort of martial arts routine to a punk song called "Gay Bar". C'mon! How could you hate this fucking DVD??!
In terms of sheer originality of content, entertainment value, and complete and utter disregard for the conventional, Lionsgate's release of Cabin Fever has got to be one of the most entertaining DVD's ever released. I am absolutley in love with this collection!
(*ed note-Eli Roth actually dropped me a line to thank me for my comments on his film, and also point out that I mistakenly said the DVD featured THREE commentary tracks. Oooops!)