Cabin Fever is a difficult movie to review. Chances are either you'll love it or hate it. Much of the movie is devoted to slyly winking at the classic horrors at the seventies/eighties, which can be either witty or irritating, depending on the circumstances, and preferences of the viewer. Regardless, Cabin Fever is a sufficiently well done movie with an original plot, which manages to be spectacularly adequate. There are some great moments in this film, and then there are some terrible ones. In the end, everything just balances out.
The primary antagonist in 'Cabin Fever' isn't a supernatural monster or some deranged killer, but is actually a mysterious flesh-eating disease. The disease remains unexplained for the length of the movie, but investigating the ins and outs of epidimiology was never the intent of 'Cabin Fever'. This hypercontagious disease is a pretty nasty one, causing it's vicitims to literally bleed out their destroyed organs, and hemmorhage blood from pretty well everywhere. Nasty. There's plenty of gore in the movie, and seeing the victims swathed in blood with their flesh rotting away is pretty disturbing, and makes for setting a nice, dark, mood.
'Cabin Fever' doesn't focus on on the disease so much as it's secondary effects on people. The paranoia of the uninfected is portrayed surprisingly well, as is by turns their callousness and generosity. 'Cabin Fever' provides an unsettling look at the essence of human nature which emerges under intense stress, and it ain't pretty.
Enough of that though, how does the movie stack up when it comes to scaring you? In general, 'Cabin Fever' pays tributes to the greats by sticking with the classic formula of teen horror. This time, 5 kids head out for a camping trip in the woods, sufficiently far from society to make things interesting. Soon they run into an infected victim, and things predictably start to degenerate. Although the movie takes a while to really get started, it provides enough humour and elementary plot development to make things interesting in the opening act. Even when it does get underway however, things rarerly get more intense. There are some excellent scenes, and a few jumps, but the movie plays more like a suspense than an actual horror. Sure, looking at the disease is nasty, but given it's nature, you're pretty sure that nobody's going to come out of things smiling in this one. It's just a matter of how they get it, and how they manage to spread it.
The acting is generally subpar, as one might expect. In their defense, the characters didn't have much to work with. We have the usual horror stereotypes here, with ones such as the stupid jock so horribly two-dimensional it's less a tribute and more an insult to the horror genre. Scenes of tension are abrubtly broken by the strangest of characters, such as a cop obsessed with partying. There are some truly funny moments though, and they add a surreal touch to the movie.
The movie just doesn't manage to show enough creativity. Events are far too predictable, and the lack of creative direction or cinematography don't help things. Everything's shot in a paint-by-the-numbers kind of way, which does nothing to build on the promising mood the movie develops early on. The viewer pretty well know what's going to happen when, and it's just a question of watching it unfold.
A quick word on the DVD release: The video transfer is pretty well what you'd expect these days, generally quite good. There's a few artifacts here and there, but nothing that hampers the viewing experience. The sound is mastered wonderfully, with ambient effects playing fine without any tinkering.
There's a serviceable making-of documentary, as well as some pointless features like chick-vision, which lets you watch the movie with the gorier parts covered. You can also check out something called 'Pancakes', which is pretty funny. You'll have to watch the movie to understand what it alludes to. There's also a segment called 'Rotten Fruit' about some musical uh, fruit, and it's inclusion is really a mystery. Finally, there are five different audio commentaries, including the director, the girls, the boys, and two others. They seem pretty insightful in general, although to be honest we didn't listen to all five... or even the entirety of one, for that matter.
In general, aside from it's unique plotline, 'Cabin Fever' doesn't distance itself enough from the films it pays homage too. It's nothing we haven't seen before, and it's nothing that we really need to see again. 'Cabin Fever' is as good as it is bad, it's a quiet and ultimately forgettable horror film. It's worth a rental, but not a purchase.