Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by:Eli Roth, Randy Pearlstein
Starring: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Joey Kern, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello, Giuseppe Andrews
Released: December 4, 2003
Grade: B+

There’s been a dozen or so horror releases this year with most telling tall tales of crazy serial killers or other ludicrous happenings.  If your memory needs refreshing then take the time to recall such duds as Final Destination 2, Darkness Falls, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Freddy Vs. Jason.  An unusual choice to screen at this year’s Brisbane International Film Festival, Cabin Fever is a surprisingly original and scary release which comes with my recommendation.

Three guys and two girls rent a cabin in the woods for the holidays.  For Jeff (Kern) and Marcy (Vincent), they’re hoping for some great times spent in the bedroom.  For Paul (Strong), he’s hoping to finally win the heart of best friend Karen (Ladd) who has been chasing for many years.  For Bert (DeBello), it’s just another to get drunk and talk smutty.

On their very first night, a horrific figure arrives on the doorstep.  He face is covered in blood and his skin his peeling.  He says that he is sick and pleads for medical assistance but there’s no phone in the cabin and no mobile phone signal in the isolated area.  The kids panic.  They don’t want to be infected and don’t plan on asking any more questions about his condition.  When the man tries to steal their car, they attack with baseball bats and after catching fire, the man flees screaming into the wilderness.

Horrified by the experience, their first option is to leave but since the car was damaged in the mayhem, there’ll be no such opportunity.  They wait out the night, hope the man doesn’t return and go in search of help at first light.  But just was the man infected with and has it been passed on to them?  Their real enemy doesn’t have a physical form but its left them petrified nevertheless.

The story has parallels with the English drama 28 Days Later which debuted here last September.  Cabin Fever differs in that it’s aimed largely at teenagers and was produced in America.  Sure there are limitations and like any horror film, there are those moments where you question the stupid decisions made by the characters.  Still, I found it plausible in most places and for sure it’s one of the better teen horror flicks of late.

Rider Strong (no that’s not a porn name) was the pick of the performance.  I’m a big fan of actors who underplay rather than overplay their roles and Strong is a good example.  This should open some doors for him as it also should for 30-year-old director Eli Roth who is already filming his next film.

Excitingly, the film was shot for just $1.5m.  That’s a pitiful amount of money by Hollywood standards but it only adds to the time honoured theory that you don’t need a lot of moolah to make a great motion picture.  All you need is an interesting script and some enthusiastic people to work with.