Let me start this off by saying I am NOT an Eli Roth hater: on the contrary, he has been my favorite director for several years now. If Eli Roth is attached to a project, I WILL watch it. So it truly pains me to say that the remake of Cabin Fever was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. If you’ve seen the original film, then there isn’t much to spoil, but if you haven’t and don’t want key plot points ruined come back after you’ve watched the 2002 original.
The new filmmakers used the exact script from the original, 2002 Roth film and it was more or less a shot for shot remake. We all know we are living in a time of remakes: Evil Dead, Pet Sematary, Child’s Play. Reboots and remakes are everywhere you turn, but Cabin Fever – in my opinion – did not need a remake. For starters, the film was not even 15 years old at the time that it was redone by director Travis Z. Second of all, it was 95% a shot-for-shot remake of Roth’s original teen horror film.
I’m well aware that shot-for-shot remakes can, and have, worked. However, the brilliance (and absurdity) of the original Cabin Fever was the way in which Roth constantly shocked the audience with the frantic pace and bold body horror. The film worked because of its originality, and a exact remake is anything but original. Remakes like Evil Dead or The Thing took brilliant pieces of original cinema and made enough changes that they felt fresh and inventive to both new fans and fans of the originals.
Obviously I can’t speak for people coming to this movie without having seen Roth’s original movie, but I’m not even sure a new viewer would enjoy this movie. The pacing seems off from the very beginning, the actors don’t deliver the dialogue in a convincing way, and the beloved comic relief sheriff was changed to a blonde sex pot whose laugh lines feel forced and uncomfortable.
The thing that I have always admired about Roth is that he doesn’t hold back in his film making. The point in his movies is often how much can you watch before turning off the TV? With an exact remake the fans have already experienced everything there is to experience from that story. The shock and the rush viewers got that first time watching Cabin Fever is gone.
The few things they did try and do different did not add anything better to the plot, just made things more unrealistic and corny. The main character Paul, played by Samuel Davis, finally gets a shot with his childhood crush only to find out she has gotten the flesh eating disease ravaging the small community. By the end of the movie Karen, played by Gage Golightly, has barely any skin and has been attacked by an infected dog. She is laying in the boat house where they quarantined her begging for Paul to kill her. Paul stands there for far too long dealing with his inner struggle. When he finally decides to put Karen out of her intense agony the gun won’t fire, so Nick takes a shovel and shoves it into Karen’s mouth and severs her jaw which, shockingly (that’s sarcasm), doesn’t kill her. He then SETS THE SHED ON FIRE AND BURNS HER ALIVE.
The original Paul, played by Ryder Strong, also chooses a shovel to help end Karen’s misery. However, rather than stab her in the face with the shovel he bludgeons her with it. Bludgeoning is still a pretty nasty way to end someone’s life, but at least Paul 1 didn’t set her on fire. The remake of Karen’s death scene is frankly one of the strangest scenes in a movie I have ever seen. The pacing is awkward and weird and you just wind up feeling sick in the worst way for this poor girl who keeps begging for him to kill her.
Roth endorsed this remake, and for that reason alone I wish I was able to say I enjoyed it. I think everyone who is a hardcore Eli Roth fan can admit that Cabin Fever (2002) has its own problems. It is a clear debut film, but it was a debut film that set him on a trajectory within the horror community that everyone was dying to see. He followed it up with films Hostel, Green Inferno, and Knock Knock all of which kept on the same path of “how long can you watch” as Cabin Fever.
I don’t really like to write negative reviews like this because in most situations I want to credit artists for their creation rather I like it or not. In this situation, however, with it being a shot-for-shot remake I don’t feel nearly as bad saying this: Do NOT waste your time on this remake. If you want to watch a remake of a classic go with Evil Dead instead: even more blood and a fantastic amount of originality. If you’re in the mood for Roth-like body horror just watch the original Cabin Fever (and the original has added bonus of Ryder Strong and his face). But I’d strongly recommend giving the new Cabin Fever the pass the next time you’re ready for some gore.
*Also, Eli Roth’s History of Horror is absolutely incredible. If you don’t have a Shudder subscription it is worth the 4.99 a month alone.
Cabin Fever (2002)
Cabin Fever (2016)