Saturday, August 09, 2008

Review: Cabin Fever

Someday, I hope to find myself in Hollywood. (Perhaps just visiting, the way my career's going as a writer...) But when I'm there, I hope to meet Eli Roth and shake his hand. I'll ask him, "You're Eli Roth, aren't you? The writer and director of 'Cabin Fever'?" And he'll say that yes, yes he is. And then I'll punch him in the stomach as hard as I can, and as he collapses to the ground, whimpering and clutching at his stomach, I'll say, "There. Now we're even." Then I'll kick him square in the testicles, and say, "Actually, we're not, but I don't have the stamina to keep doing this for 92 more minutes."

'Cabin Fever' is a horror movie that has the fundamental flaw of not having enough to do to justify its running time. It's very clearly a movie that was built around a couple of ideas Roth had for "really cool gory bits, like this chick is shaving her legs and the skin starts coming right off", but since each of those bits is about a minute or two long, and he doesn't have more than three or four of them, he must have realized at some point that his potential movie was about eighty minutes short of the running time of a theatrical release motion picture.

Roth solved this dilemma through a technique I like to call "pointless, rambling bullshit," in which the director films unlikeable characters saying random things and walking around deserted locations, while playing "spooky" music in the background and hoping that you'll be fooled into believing something might be happening. If you're not, those eighty minutes are excruciating torment. (Hint: I wasn't.)

And by the way, when I say "unlikeable" I'll give Roth some credit, I actually think that the lead characters were intended to be unsympathetic. I think it was a bold tack, making a horror movie in which you actually root for the death sequences, inverting the usual horror paradigm so that instead of hoping a particular character survives to the end, you'll be hoping a particular character dies a well-deserved horrible death. The problem is, he does his job too well. I found myself wanting to fast-forward the movie through to the point where everyone was dead, and I don't just mean the characters.

I'll give it some points: The special effects are excellent, Roth the director does his best to take the weak, watery gruel that Roth the writer has given him and play it out for suspense, but fundamentally, it's the bloated corpse of a 20-minute short film, made by someone who decided that 20-minute short films don't make very much money. If you're a film editor who wants to practice his/her technique by slicing out all the padding, go ahead and watch. Otherwise, avoid avoid avoid.


Reid said...

Totally, completely, utterly agree. Roth never fails to disappoint. This movie has all the worst aspects of several different genres. Was it an unfunny comedy, a horrible horror movie, or an awful biohazard movie?

I watched it, and I still have no idea.

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