Cabin Fever dir. Eli Roth

Opens Fri Sept 12 at Meridian 16 and the Varsity.

There is much that is right about Cabin Fever, director Eli Roth's attempt to revive the somewhat dormant gore genre. The film is suitably disgusting, suitably cheesy, and suitably stupid. The characters copulate and perish in a proper manner, and the entire endeavor is undertaken with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. But there is one thing that is not right about Cabin Fever, and that thing, to put it bluntly, is the finger-banging scene.

Now, it should be noted that I am, in general, a fairly non-squeamish sort; it takes a lot to make me woozy, especially in regards to le cinéma, where, over the years, it seems every trick and gooey f/x has been sufficiently unmasked before my eyes. But Cabin Fever's finger-banging scene left me curled up in the basement of my seat, cowering from the screen like a yella bastard. Why? If the close proximity of the words "gore" and "finger-banging" don't make it clear, you'll just have to see the flick and witness it for yourself.

The story: Five recent college grads--three guys and two gals (or, two couples and one loser nobody really likes, who for some reason is invited along anyway)--trek to an isolated cabin for a week of beer, bonding, and coitus out of wedlock. Why people of their age bracket would wish to venture into such a clichéd scenario--which, after all, rarely works out well for their type of characters--remains a mystery, but venture they do, and, not surprisingly, on their very first night their vacation is soundly wrecked. The wrecker: a festering wound of an individual who knocks on their cabin door and pleads for a ride to the hospital. The group's response: to pummel the poor sap and set him aflame, accidentally destroying their vehicle--their only escape from isolation--in the process. The result of their unfriendly actions: Enter a second unwelcome guest, named Mysterious Flesh Eating Virus.

To quote a dusty Danish proverb, "Fish and guests smell at three days old." In the case of Mysterious Flesh Eating Virus, though, a better line might be, "Previously hot coeds begin to smell the following day," for sure enough, one of the group's members quickly begins to develop sores. Just what is the virus at play? An explanation is never really offered, but clues point to a future crisis for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the virus' speed is rather startling--so startling, in fact, that words like "eradication" and "apocalypse" spring to mind. The virus' worldwide domination will have to wait for a sequel, however, as Roth--who appears to have assembled Cabin Fever on a buck-fifty budget--wisely keeps the action in the picture tightly located; trapped without a car, the characters' isolation becomes one of their chief obstacles, and even if they made it back to civilization, whether or not any sane, healthy person would want to come into contact with their seeping persons remains a threatening question mark.

And so it goes, with fear, panic, crackpot plans, and gurgling wounds ruling the day, as our heroes--none of whom are the sharpest of tools in the shed, of course--not only face the nefarious virus, but creepy local yokels and vicious, infected dogs as well. Such an overwhelming force of obstacles--wouldn't one's disintegrating body be enough?--proves Roth a rabid fan of the genre, for not only does Cabin Fever take inspiration from Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (the obvious comparison), but The Blair Witch Project, Friday the 13th, and Deliverance as well. The result is a well-made, entertaining flick (despite a few minor stumbles, such as an annoying, unnecessary police deputy) that may not be high art, but at least knows--and appreciates--where its roots lie. Those roots were planted by a man named Herschell Gordon Lewis, who way back in 1963 released a B flick named Blood Feast into drive-ins and was the first to send neckers vomiting out the windows of their Buicks. They are roots that offer much joy in witnessing goo and gore on-screen, and Cabin Fever has much joy to offer.