Film Reviews Horror Reviews

Comfort in Horror: Featuring CABIN FEVER (2002)

Throughout the pandemic, my fiancé (now husband) and I have taken a number of trips to rural Airbnb locations. They allow us to get away and scratch that travel itch, yet still be responsible by social distancing. One common thread we have found amongst the less “curated” destinations has been the eclectic DVD selection. Like pouring through the CD stacks at a used record store, there is a definitive era exhibited in these libraries, usually films spanning from around 1998 through 2010. I challenge you, go to a family-oriented Airbnb with a collection of movies available andI would be surprised if they don’t have: Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Fast and the Furious, Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Departed, or Fight Club.

There are some getaway locations, as we have unintentionally discovered, that although fully equipped with a TV and DVD player, do not have internet nor a DVD collection. There is a cheat, however. My husband and I used to be fortunate enough to still have an active video rental store in our neighborhood. With many other casualties of COVID, that store has sadly closed, but it reminded us how fun video rentals can be. Browsing the shelves of films, trying to establish just how your Saturday evening would look; it lacks the frustration of flicking through Netflix’s mediocrity. 

Did you know there are still stores that offer that service? They usually cost between $1 and $3 a rental, there are NO late fees, and if you decide you want to just add the movie to your home collection, you can! They’re called thrift stores and they’re everywhere. So after a day of skiing near our most recent, admittedly very eerie Airbnb rental, we hit the thrift store and were able to snatch Body of Lies (2008), Ghost Rider (2007), Laws of Attraction (2004), and what this article will focus on, the piece de resistance, Cabin Fever (2002).

A quick synopsis. A handful of friends stay at a secluded cabin in the woods for the week. One by one they become prey to a flesh-eating virus. Their true colors show as they attempt to survive, grasping the attention of locals. How we watched this film while actually quarantining during a global pandemic at an off-the-grid cabin, I will never know (see photo below). Stumbling into this getaway that lacked WiFi and a neighbor was scary. However, there’s been something therapeutic about watching quarantine themed films while, in reality, humanity quarantines. It seems to help safely escape the treacherous reality while trying to make sense of the epidemic. It’s fascinating how tied to the internet we’ve all become. After a couple days I began to embrace the feeling of being alone in the woods, disconnected from technology, feeling present, and—even for a moment—safe from coronavirus.

I originally saw this film in the early 2000s mostly because it stars Rider Strong from the widely beloved TV show, Boy Meets World. This time around, “problematic” is the first word that comes to mind; and I kind of hate that term. Things are “gay”, sexual consent is not inquired, and the second douchiest bro in the film sports a shirt citing “Ripe On 6-13-06”, a nod to when the Olsen twins would turn 18. But similar to the first time I watched The Room, I find it really hard to believe that all of this was done by accident. 

The first bro in the film is a cameo by the filmmaker himself, Eli Roth, who I believe to be a wink to the audience; letting us know that there is something more here. It straddles the line of poor taste vs. satire making it fun to contemplate. Although Cabin in the Woods (2011) is the modern meta-commentary on cabin-in-the-woods films, I’m fairly confident that Cabin Fever pulled it off 9 years prior. It just didn’t get the recognition it deserves. My husband and I are calling it “the Showgirls of horror”!

One of my favorite characters is Deputy Winston played by Giuseppe Andrews. He arrives to inspect the crisis and seems to make light of everything. Instead of talking about the intruders and the flesh-eating virus, he continuously encourages Paul (Strong) to party. I lost count of how many times he says “party” and uses phrases like “you’re the party man” in a four-minute scene. The music in the background is very Twin Peaks and there are many interactions similar to this throughout the movie where the vibe feels serious, but the writing is silly — ultimately making it difficult to decipher.

If you’re looking for a quarantine-themed bouncy horror flick with comedic undertones and lots of blood spatter, this one’s for you! Give it a watch, twist your brain into knots, and play this drinking game we found ourselves subconsciously playing as the film unfolded:

  • Blood spurt
  • Someone says “gay” 
  • Someone says “party”
  • Olsen twins bro takes a drink
  • Chug during any classic early 2000’s style slow-motion sequence

This article was written by a guest contributor

Catherine Ann

Catherine became a member of the Chicago-based Music Box Theatre, which opened up her world to unexpected interests in horror and obscure classics, particularly ones with practical effects. She attended the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival and was fully captivated by the film community.
Follow her on Instagram | Letterboxd

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