Step 1: Have sex. Step 2: Die.
— Dennis, the Pancakes Kid
(2002) is an American horror
film directed by Eli Roth
about a group of college students who stay in a secluded cabin on a camping trip and subsequently find themselves falling victim to a flesh-eating virus (''Fever'', geddit?)
. Roth's directorial debut, the story was inspired by a trip to Iceland, during the course of which Roth developed a skin infection.
Inspired by many of his favorite horror films, such as Evil Dead
, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
, and The Last House on the Left
, Roth wanted to step away from what he saw as the "watered down
" studio horror films. Rather, he saw the violence and nudity as essential ingredients of what he saw as a throwback to 80's horror. Roth would later continue down this path with the Hostel
was followed by a sequel
, Cabin Fever: Spring Fever
, in 2009, and a prequel, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
in 2014. A fourth film, Outbreak
, was also tentatively planned but was jettisoned in favor of a Recycled Script
Both movies contain examples of:
- Apocalypse How
- Body Horror: It's a horrifying flesh-eating virus. What do you expect to happen? (And in the second movie, this is turned up to 11.)
- Cool Clear Water: HAHAHA no. The virus is waterborne; it thrives in the nearby river.
- Gorn: Again, horrifying flesh-eating virus.
- Inescapable Horror: Getting more so by the end of each movie...
- Karma Houdini: Winston the Party Cop. He repeatedly survives encounters with numerous infected people in both movies, most of the time not even being aware of the true danger of the virus or even caring, as he's preoccupied with partying. At the end of both movies, he unknowingly ruins any hope of containment by accidentally spreading the virus even further. He's avoided getting infected so many times that it's quite likely he must have some sort of natural immunity to it.
- Made of Plasticine: It's a flesh-eating virus and it rots your flesh. This is what happens to your body as a direct result. Inevitably that would make the virus even more dangerous - it's tough to take samples to create a cure because it deterioates so quickly.
- The Plague: It is hinted that the disease will reach pandemic levels, insofar as the hint practically parades in front of the audience in stiletto heels and fishnet stockings singing "Sweet Transvestite" and twirling flaming batons.
Cabin Fever contains examples of:
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": All most people know about the movie is that it involves a virus, and that there are no pancakes in it.
- The latter being a myth - Look what the notorious bunny rabbit has in his hands.
- Anatomically Impossible Sex: Watch Paul's arm when he embraces Marcy at the end of their sex scene. It's level with the top of her hip. So her crotch must've been pumping Paul's belly or chest, not his penis.
- Even more apparrent in the fullscreen cut, where you can see how impractically wide Marcy is straddling Paul and how high her thrusts go.
- Just the opposite for the other sex scene, as it's the widescreen cut that spoils the illusion - you can see that "naked" Marcy is wearing underpants.
- As You Know: "You don't use condoms?" - A pretty obvious question when you are literally in the middle of a sexual romp and your partner hadn't made you put on a raincoat before she climbed aboard. But of course, without a mid-coital dialogue about it, how would the audience know that there are virus cells swimming through those mixing bodily fluids?
- Asshole Victim: Bert & Jeff.
- Brick Joke: "That's fer niggers."
- But We Used a Condom: Inverted. Paul and Marcy make a point of telling the audience they are doing the deed without a raincoat. Of course, riding bareback with a deadly disease spreading through the cabin is just asking for trouble. Naturally, one of them(Marcy), is already infected and is leaving Paul with a bad case of Cabin Fever.
- Coitus Ensues: A sensitive new age guy goes in to comfort a friend who is frightened by all the illness around them, and winds up getting wildly laid by a babe who was almost certainly the prom queen.
- Cool Old Guy: Old Man Cadwell who seems racist but is actually Pretty Fly for a White Guy.
- Coming and Going:
- Marcy and Paul's impulsive romp in the sack is framed around a shot of motionless Karen dying alone in the tool shed. Marcy's aroused breathing has even been inserted into the Karen shot. This was done to illustrate the moral decay that had developed within the cabin (with 2 teens selfishly enjoying a good screw while their friend croaks.)
- Undertones of sex are subtley present across the entire spread of the disease throughout the main characters:
- Karen is discovered to have the deadly illness when Paul is feeling her up - it's implied that her first wound was near her vagina, because that's the area Paul was touching her when he found the blood.
- Burt's first disease wounds are discovered just above his crotch.
- Marcy's first disease wounds are the rashes on her back that appear during her passionate sexual encounter with Paul.
- Paul actually contracts the disease from his unprotected sexual encounter with infected Marcy. (See Death by Sex below.) In addition, his first definite sign of being sick are small wounds he finds down near his crotch. Of course, this doesn't mean it's an STD going around, but Getting On Down with somebody who's dying from a waterborne infection is not really the best idea...
- Covers Always Lie: The back cover states that there's "something borrowing beneath [the character's] flesh", implying a parasite of some sort.
- Creator Cameo: Roth plays the memorable character Justin.
- Deadly Bath: The actual bathing is not shown, but Marcy tells the group she's going to take a bath after an argument earlier in the movie. Possibly how she initially became infected (the virus is waterborne)).
- Death by Sex: Marcy has sex with Paul because she's upset that Jeff bailed on all of them. Paul is concerned that they aren't using a condom, but Marcy claims that she hasn't caught the virus yet. Afterward, Paul douses his genitals with Listerine to be sure - too late! Turns out she was wrong, as we see her with handprint rashes on her back where he touched her immediately after they finish.
- Another example happens earlier on where Paul is fondling Karen. He soon finds out that her legs are bleeding and infected, and he was actually touching one of the sores.
- Developing Doomed Characters: Though not as bad as many horror examples..
- Despair Speech: Marcy's "We're all gonna die... It's like being on a crashing plane..." speech certainly qualifies.
- Don't Go in the Woods: You just never should in general. Everything will want to eat you, including the bacteria.
- Downer Ending: The kids buying and selling lemonade made with contaminated water are infected with the virus and will most likely infect the rest of the townspeople, and the water is bottled and shipped to another part of the country.
- Drone of Dread: A sickly whine is used frequently. Mostly to overlay shots of the infected water, or to indicate the moment a character becomes infected, or realizes they are infected (or both, in one case).
- Ear Ache: Fenster, one of the hillbillies, dies when a screwdriver is jammed into his ear.
- Eaten Alive: Marcy is chased and eaten by a rabid dog.
- Ethical Slut: Though Best Known for the Fanservice, Marcy was also one of the only two people who cared enough to comfort Karen and clean her up after she started vomiting blood. She also seemed to be the most remorseful of the group about locking Karen in the shed as she brought Karen dinner soon afterwards.
- "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: "...Goodnight, fucker..."
- Foreshadowing: Paul advises Jeff and Marcy to have "safe sex" when he accidentally walks in on them about to do the horizontal hula at the start of the movie. Though it's not clear one way or the other if they actually take his advice, it would later turn out to be extremely important advice that Paul, himself, fails to follow when he has sex with Marcy later on.
- Marcy's quote: "...All you want to do is grab the person next to you and fuck the shit out of them because you know your going to be dead soon anyway." This turns out to be an eerily accurate description of her remaining lifespan. Pretty much all she does after that speech is grab the guy sitting next to her, sleep with him and then die shortly afterwards.
- The director's cut version includes an extra scene that shows how everybody spends their last night in the cabin. Marcy and Paul are shown sleeping in the same bed, both fully clothed, due to how Marcy's relationship with Jeff has deteriorated throughout the night. This of course foreshadows Marcy and Paul "sleeping together" in the more biblical sense.
- Great Way to Go: When her friends start succumbing to the disease, Marcy decides that what little time she has left would best be spent doing the horizontal mambo.
Marcy: It's like being on a plane when you know it's going to crash. Everybody is screaming "We're going down! We're going down!" And all you want to do is grab the person next to you and fu*k the sh*t out of them, because you know you just gonna die soon, anyway.
- Hand or Object Underwear: Marcy leaves her breasts hanging free and visible when we first see her washing up after her intense sex scene. But she soon covers them with her arms, while holding a small towel up to her face and keeps them covered for the duration of the scene.
- Heroic BSOD:
- Marcy virtually shuts down completely after Jeff abandons her. Before she is assertive, selfless and driven. But afterwards all she does is have one last screw, resign herself to death and have a bath.
- Paul grows increasingly out of control after seeing Marcy's mangled remains. Supposedly the hero of the film, he ends up going on a killing spree, killing several people including his own love interest.
- Heroic Sacrifice: After spending most of the movie being an incorrigible prick, Bert sacrifices himself allowing Paul to kill the evil townsfolk.
Paul when he sees Marcy about to have sex with Jeff
Paul: Yeeeeah... Safe sex!
Paul while Marcy is having sex with him
Paul: You don't use condoms?
Marcy: Don't worry, I'm healthy.
Paul: (Implied by silence) Oh, alright then.
- A House Divided: None of the characters actually die from the virus.
- Irony: The brand of beer shown in the scene where Jeff takes all the beer and bails on his friends is the very real "Arrogant Bastard Ale".
- Instant Seduction: Marcy somehow manages to turn a maudlin speech about how hopeless their situation is, and a pensive gaze into High Octane Nookie Fuel. No sooner has she finished telling Paul how doomed they both are, then the film cuts to a shot of them both naked, with Marcy throwing incredulous Paul down on the bed.
- Internal Reveal: Just after Marcy assures her reluctanct sex partner that she's healthy, we're shown that his hands are leaving unusually nasty rashes as they squeeze her back - cluing us in, as if we didn't already suspect, that Marcy was already riddled with the disease.
- Immodest Orgasm: Jeff at the beginning makes a lot of noise.
- Ironic Echo:
- The second sex scene is an ironic echo of the first one:
- The first begins with Marcy giving a speech about how great the coming week's going to be, the second begins with her giving a speech about how all they've got in their future is sickness and death.
- Paul advises Marcy and Jeff to use a condom at the beginning of the first sex scene, at the beginning of the second he tells Marcy he's concerned that they aren't using a condom.
- Both scenes are cut in to two sections, framed by a still shot of what one of their friends is doing at the same time.
- Both have soundtracks, the first is upbeat and carefree, the second is dark and ominous.
- The first scene is quite vocal, the second one is mostly silent - symbolizing the breakdown of communication/relationships among the group.
- Dennis randomly shouting "Pancakes!" when he bites Bert's hand and gets infected. Later, when he's being treated in hospital, the mascot bunny is actually feeding him pancakes.
- iSophagus: At a party, a guy playing a harmonica gets it shoved down his throat after getting smashed in the face with a guitar. Cue him falling to the ground gasping for air complete with harmonica sounds.
- Jerk Ass: Jeff, who runs off and abandons his girlfriend after two of their friends have caught the virus.
- Karma Houdini: Jeff, the jerkiest of jerk-faces in the entire movie, quickly abandons everyone and only looks out for himself, even in a rare moment that he actually COULD make a difference. He's the only one that survives. Well, until the mob clearing out the infected gun him down when they don't realize he's clean.
- Karmic Twist Ending: "I MADE IT! I FUCKING MADE IT!" *gunshot*
- Literal Metaphor: Marcy likens her and Paul's hopeless situation to one where "all you want to do is grab the person next to you and fuck the shit out of them", which leaves Paul Dumb Struck. She proceeds to grab him and fuck the shit out of him.
- Mercy Kill: Paul kills Karen with a shovel to put her out of her misery.
- Mistaken for Racist: The shotgun that's "for niggers" isn't to shoot them. Rather, the store owner has some black friends from out of town and the gun is theirs.
- Modest Orgasm: Despite the pulse-racing tempo of her doomsday fling, Marcy reaches the grand finale with just a quiet gasp and a toss of her hair. Paul's reaction is even less noticeable (Though he's shot only from the back, so it's not like we're in a position to see him).
- Musical Spoiler: The sinister background music over Marcy and Paul's sex scene make it pretty clear that something dark is happening here (namely, Paul catching the disease from Marcy), as if the expository statement about their lack of condoms wasn't clear enough.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Marcy's sarcastic remark to the men, the morning after they accidentally killed the sick hobo to stop him stealing their car.
Marcy You boys gonna kill each other, now?
- Also when she criticizes Paul for being a little too excitable when they slept together.
Marcy Jesus, Paul, you really did a number on my back!
- No Body Left Behind: Marcy almost completely disappears after meeting her gruesome end. There a bits and pieces of her scattered around the surrounding forrest, but her corpse is nowhere to be found. That dog must've been really hungry!
- Not Staying for Breakfast: Despite Marcy's pleas for him to stay in the cabin, Paul is determined to wander off after their sexual ride, on a seemingly pointless mission. Of course, seeing as he suspected her of giving him the deadly disease, you can understand why he was so eager to get away from her. Also see Sex Changes Everything.
- If there is any doubt about his true motive for leaving being the post-coital awkwardness (as opposed to a genuine attempt to save his friends), take a look at the direction Jeff ran off in, and then take a look at the direction Paul returns from after he hears Marcy's death screams. He went searching for Jeff in the completely opposite direction to where he last saw Jeff running!
- Out with a Bang: Marcy justifies a spontaneous affair with Paul by rationalizing that they will both soon be infected and dead from the disease, so why not? By doing it, she actually infects (presumably) healthy Paul with the illness she was carrying.
- Psycho Strings: A double beat string motif is used during the scene where Marcy infects Paul by having sex with him.
- Reveal Shot: When a tense discussion breaks up, the camera pans on to the table to reveal a cup of tea where Marcy had been sitting, indicating that she had drunk some of the infected water during the meeting.
- Rule of Sexy: Many reviewers, both pro and amateur, have noted how improbable and out-of-place Paul and Marcy's sudden tryst seemed. Likely, it was written in because Roth wanted his debut to return to the staples of classic horror (one of which being gratuitous nudity).
- Scare Chord: After Paul is wheeled into the hospital, he has a dream of him and Karen before everything went down. There's very nice music, the final scene shows the two of them about to kiss...and then it smash cuts to Karen's flesh-rotted face with a JARRING scare chord playing.
- Sequel Hook: The bottled water truck driving off at the end of the movie is shown in the sequel to have delivered its deadly cargo to the population of a high school prom.
- Sex Changes Every Thing: Subtle hints throughout the film show Marcy's relationship with Jeff decaying while she grows closer to Paul. A scene cut from the cinema version even shows them sleeping together (fully clothed) on their last night. On their last morning, they do everything together. Then, after Marcy finally has sex with Paul, he can't get away from her fast enough.
- Sex for Solace: Debatable. Marcy's sudden urge to screw Paul seems mostly due to Jeff breaking up with and abandoning her.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: See Karmic Twist Ending.
- Shout-Out: The ending where the only remaining uninfected survivor is shot in the head by the arriving posse closely mirrors that of Night of the Living Dead.
- Speaking of NotLD, some locals investigate the titular cabin. While piling infected corpses to burn, one comments that they should check the basement for survivors.
- Two characters are listed in the credits as "Shemp" and "Fake Shemp", in an homage to the Evil Dead films.
- A Shout-Out of a Shout-Out, in fact, as this is ultimately a reference to The 3 Stooges, who hired an impersonator to be strategically filmed to complete scenes featuring Shemp in their movies after the real Shemp suddenly died during production.
- The Thing (1982): Karen, like Dr. Blair, is banished to a tool shed by the group.
- The second sex scene is styled in homage to the "conception" sex scene in Species: Both awkward guys are astounded by the uber-babe coming on to them, and both ask about wearing a condom while she's straddling them (But end up not wearing one due to their lover's eagerness) The over-the-shoulder filming angle of both scenes are similar and to top it off, both scenes end with a disturbing visual cue that appears (unseen by the man) on the woman's back - letting the audience know it won't end well.
- The scene in the hospital where Paul pulls up his gown and discovers some of the symptomatic scabs of the disease is reminisent of the scene at the start of Aliens where Ripley pulls back her own hospital gown to reveal a bulge in her belly where an Alien is about to burst out.
- Shown Their Work: One of the sound mixers survived an actual bout with flesh-eating bacteria. He maintains that the makeup in the film is 100% accurate.
- Eli Roth himself had flesh-eating bacteria while he was backpacking abroad in Iceland-namely a bout of Trench Foot.
- Slo Mo shot of Marcy's pert posterior swaying it's way up a grassy hill.
- Surreal Humor: The "pancakes" scene.
- Tempting Fate: See Karmic Twist Ending above. Did Jeff not realize what kind of movie he was in??
- There Will Be Toilet Paper: ...Just not nearly enough of it. Not enough in the world.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- How many women, if when they were shaving their legs, and the skin started to come off on the razor with noticeable amounts of blood and scraping noises to Squick pretty much anybody within the county out, would continue shaving their legs?
- Toplessness from the Back: Marcy when having sex wth Paul.
- Wham Line: Marcy delivers this when her lament over her hopeless situation suddenly turns into a very assertive come-on to the guy beside her.
Cabin Fever 2 contains examples of: