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Cabin Fever, a fun little film by first time director Eli Roth, was lucky enough to get a theatrical release several months back. While the movie turned out to be a little different than most expected, it was a joy to watch. Now comes the much anticipated DVD, released by Lions Gate. Fortunately for fans of the film, it is a great package that is just as witty as the film itself.

Cabin Fever

Film
Those looking forward to Cabin Fever for months before its theatrical release found out quickly that this film, hailed as a balls-to-the-wall return to 80s style gore filled horror, was a victim of misleading marketing. While there are some intense moments of shock and gore, Cabin Fever serves more of a self-referential study of horror films of the past. Once one is able to get past the disappointment of watching a different film than promised, it is easy to have a great time with the films comedic elements.

Like most good horror films, Cabin Fever begins with a group of young men (with the only real star being Rider Strong of TVs Boy Meets World fame) and women isolating themselves and setting themselves up for later terror.  In this particular movie, the young men and women have rented a cabin in the woods to celebrate something or another. The plot doesn’t matter, really, as things quickly go downhill.

A flesh eating virus is loose in the sleepy backwoods town and is brought to the group by way of an infected hermit that not only scares the daylights out of the gang but also manages to cause the destruction of their vehicle. What ensues is a paranoid struggle of life and death that begins with one girl getting sick and the others worried about the possibility of infection.

While the plot sounds potential terrifying, the movie is often played for laughs. Fans of the genre will appreciate many hidden nods to classics (watch in particular for a homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre when the camera follows Marcy to a house from behind the actress). This is a messy movie, with much blood and gore. There are also some genuinely unsettling moments scattered throughout, though the virus plot fails to inspire any real terror and much of the horror is left up to sporadic boo-scares.

Cabin Fever

Director Eli Roth has proven himself to be full of potential with this freshman outing. He knows the genre well and has written and directed a solid film that is, while not as much fun the second and third time, extremely entertaining. Go into Cabin Fever expecting a fun examination of the genre through a paper thin plot and you won’t be disappointed by the lack of much real horror.

Video
Cabin Fever is presented by Lions Gate in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The quality of the picture here is respectable with strong colours. The woods are crisp and the blood and gore come in at the most sickening levels. The night scenes are slightly soft, but contrast is strong throughout the entire film. There are no noticeable signs of the typical DVD problems and there do not appear to be any flaws in the transfer itself.

Audio

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is decent, but leaves room for improvement and a good bit to be desired. The overall sound levels are disappointingly low, except for boo scare moments. Woods should provide an extremely rich sound environment and, while there is background noise, it is not always easily heard. Dialogue levels are steady throughout. The brilliant score is, thankfully, prominently used.

Cabin Fever

Extras
This disc is a commentary lover’s dream. There are actually five audio commentaries to choose from. The commentaries include one from the girls, one from the guys, one with the filmmakers, one with the director and a Rider Strong track. Roth is present on all five of these tracks. While all the commentaries are entertaining, the most valuable information is contained in the track with director Eli Roth. His love of the genre shines through as he talks about his film and its influences. Rider Strong’s commentary track is also above average as the excited actor talks constantly about the shoot. The other tracks are worth listening to in your spare time, but I have to say listening to all five for the sake of this review became extremely tedious.

There are two inventive features that let you view a ‘Family Version’ of the film and watch the film in ‘Chick Vision’. The ‘Family Version’ of the film is roughly thirty seconds long and is Cabin Fever reduced to pretty landscape shots and a few seconds of film with the friends before the mayhem starts. ‘Chick Vision’ simulates a jumpy viewer by adding a pair of hands that cover up parts of the screen the closer the movie gets to a scare. Very funny. Another odd inclusion to this package is the ‘Pancakes’ video that shows Dennis the pancake kid (don’t ask, just watch the movie before watching this) practicing his moves to the heavy metal jam ‘Gay Bar’. Lastly in the odd-ball category of special features is a collection of Roth’s claymation shorts ‘Rotten Fruit’. Each episode is thoroughly offensive and utterly hilarious.

The ‘Beneath the Skin’ making-of documentary is the other highlight of the DVD (behind the commentaries, of course). This off-the-wall documentary covers all aspects of the creation of the film while continually making fun of the film and all those involved. This is an extremely amusing and informative featurette. Other films could benefit from documentaries like this rather than the usual marketing pieces. Rounding out the supplemental features is a collection of trailers (including one for Cabin Fever) that can be viewed by selection the Lions Gate logo on the main menu).

Cabin Fever

Overall
Lions Gate has put together a tight little package for this small horror film. While the audio is slightly lacking, the picture is very good. This DVD should be purchased by fans of the film, however, for the entertaining, clever and informative special features. Keep an eye on Eli Roth as I can promise you this man will be providing us with some great movies and clever DVDs for years to come.


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