Cabin Fever (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Cabin Fever was the hottest property at the Toronto Film festival in 2002. Several studios got into a bidding war, which Lions Gate won with a deal that was said to involve high seven figures for the film rights, plus a commitment to at least low eight figures on the marketing and promotional end.

I'm not sure what all the fuss was about. It's a competent horror movie, but a fairly traditional type with no special luster of originality or innovation.

Five college kids, consisting of the usual mix of types, head out to a remote cabin in the woods to chill out before they have to face life. They have the usual foreboding experiences with the locals, who seem to be leftovers from the cast of Deliverance.

Things progress quietly until the kids encounter a hermit covered with pustules, obviously the victim of some new and horrible viral disease. The first encounter of the hermit with the entire group of kids gives us our first strong indication that this is not a movie about real people, but about movie characters. In real life, if someone comes to your door and says, "I'm hurt, I need a ride to the doctor", you say, "OK, but you may be infectious, so just don't touch anything here, and climb into the open flatbed of our vehicle. We'll get you to town". These kids don't behave like that - I suppose because they must know they are in a horror movie, and this isn't just a regular sick guy, but a horror movie sick guy, with some condition capable of destroying them and possibly the world. They recoil in horror, close the door on the poor sap, and eventually end up shooting him, beating him, and setting him on fire. The kids do not unanimously agree on this course of action, but that's what they end up doing.

The infected guy tries to douse the fire by jumping into the reservoir, thus poisoning the water supply. Plague ensues.

The locals turn on the kids, the kids turn on one another, things get ugly.

Critical reaction has been generally favorable, but not without dissents:

  • The critics who love the horror genre have really taken this one to heart, so it must be a C+ on our scale - good fare for genre fans.
  • Mainstream critics most typically said that it's OK as a 70s or 80s style horror movie homage, but nothing special at best. Roger Ebert assigned one and a half stars, Owen Gleibermann voted C+.


  • Cerina Vincent.  Topless a lot.  She looked great.
  • Jordan Ladd: bikini and braless views

DVD info from Amazon

  • Director's shorts: the Rotten Fruit

  • 5 feature-length commentaries

  • Beneath the Skin: The Making of Cabin Fever

  • Family friendly version (about a minute long)

  • Pancakes!

  • Chick-vision™ (hides all the scary and gross stuff)

I had about the same reaction as the mainstream guys. I didn't think the film was original enough to praise unreservedly. I don't think I was surprised by one development in the entire film. It seems to me that the IMDb voters have it in the right general ballpark at 5.7/10.

I did think it was a competent movie, with adequate character development by genre standards, some solid horror moments as well as some solid comic relief, and it was above average in at least one way: the widescreen cinematography was often very effective, as good as I've seen in any recent horror film.

I thought the most effective and ingenious contribution to the genre occurred when Cerina Vincent was taking a bath, shaving her legs, all "business as usual" until we see her scraping off some lather to reveal that she has just used her razor to open up various disgusting pustules, spores, and/or lesions. Genre films are supposed to make us react viscerally - like carnival thrill rides. That scene certainly worked. I found it a very effective and lurid stomach-churner which was heightened by Cerina's naked vulnerability. That's the kind of moment that made it a hit with the indie and genre critics.

But make no mistake, it is a genre film for genre lovers, not one that reaches out to mainstream audiences.

The Critics Vote

  • Critical panel: two stars. Roger Ebert 1.5/4, Owen Gleiberman C+

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.5/10, Yahoo voters score it a C+.
  • Box Office Mojo. It opened in #3 spot with an $8 million opening weekend. Despite all the advance ballyhoo from Toronto, solid reviews, and a 2000 screen distribution, it peaked at $21 million. I think the studio thought it was much stronger than that. The film was made cheaply and independently, but Lions Gate had a $20 million investment in it, counting the purchase price and their marketing arrangement.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. I thought it was a competent but uninspired horror/gore flick, well done but just the same old same old, which would make it a C, but I revised my estimation to C+ because it is obviously very popular with the critics who love fantasy and horror films.

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