***/**** Image A Sound A Extras B+
starring Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent
screenplay by Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein
directed by Eli Roth
by Walter Chaw Agreeably jejune in a way just north of ADHD obnoxious, Eli Roth's shoestring splatter flick Cabin Fever is joyously prurient and disgusting in a way that recalls the early days of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson. While not as witty as you might expect from the comparison (its humour born of the school of "trying too hard," particularly an awkward bit at the end of the picture about the uses of a hillbilly shopkeeper's rifle), Cabin Fever appears to be some sort of jambalaya about menstrual fear--dashes of Clive Barker's "How Spoilers Bleed" and Stephen King's "The Raft" mixed in with more direct references to classic splatter flicks (Night of the Living Dead, John Carpenter's The Thing, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and so on--complete with David Hess's deeply disturbing banjo score from Last House on the Left)--all wrapped up in what Joe Bob Briggs would dub the very model of the "Spam-in-a-cabin" diversion. It's not all that scary, in other words, its outcome too inevitable to provide much in the way of tension with its built-in tension relievers--a slapstick stoner cop and a feral kid--the worst miscalculations in pacing and structure. When it works, though, it works with an invigorating ardour and intelligence that does justice to the idea that the horror genre, as an indicator species in cinema's ecosystem, provides the keenest insight into our collective contemporary paranoia.