Cabin Fever (film): Wikis


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Cabin Fever

Promotional poster
Directed by Eli Roth
Produced by Evan Astrowsky
Sam Froelich
Lauren Moews
Jeff Hoffman
Eli Roth
Written by Eli Roth
Randy Pearlstein
Starring Rider Strong
Jordan Ladd
James DeBello
Cerina Vincent
Joey Kern
Jeff Hoffman
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Nathan Barr
Cinematography Scott Kevan
Editing by Ryan Folsey
Distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment
Release date(s) September 12, 2002 (2002-09-12)
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.5 million
Gross revenue $30,553,394
Followed by Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

Cabin Fever is a 2002 American horror film about a group of college graduates who rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a flesh-eating virus. The film was the directing debut of filmmaker Eli Roth, who co-wrote the film with Randy Pearlstein. The inspiration for the film's story came from a real life experience during a trip to Iceland when Roth developed a skin virus.[1][2]

Roth wanted the style of his film to make a departure from many modern horror films that had been released in recent years.[2] One modern horror film, The Blair Witch Project, did inspire Roth to use the internet to help promote the film during its production and help gain interest towards its distribution.[1] The film itself, however, draws from many of Roth's favorite horror films, such as The Evil Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Last House on the Left.[1][2] Roth was tired of what he called the "watered down PG-13" horror films of the studios, and refused to compromise on the violence or nudity, saying they were essential ingredients to an '80s-style horror film.



A man is walking in the woods and comes upon a dog that he believes to be sleeping. After poking it a few times, he pulls the dog up and notices that his flesh is rotted. The scene turns to five college friends, Jeff, Marcy, Paul, Karen and Bert who have rented a cabin in the woods. Along the way, they stop at a local convenience store for food and already notice odd things about the town. Paul sits on the bench next to a quiet young boy in the convenience store and as he tries to make small talk, the boy bites him on the hand. To make things worse, the store owner appears to be a very racist individual.

When they arrive at the cabin, Jeff and Marcy immediately retire to their bedroom and have sex. Paul and Karen go for a swim in the lake while Bert goes hunting for squirrels in the woods. He accidentally shoots the man who discovered the rotting dog in the beginning of the film while hunting whom he mistook for a squirrel. The man's face has become badly rotted. Scared, Burt shoots at him again in order to repel him and runs back to the cabin. All seems to go well for a while. They build a bonfire and share ghost stories with each other. They soon encounter a local college kid named Grim who approaches them with his dog Dr. Mambo. Though a little eccentric they allow him to join in. However, once it starts raining, he leaves to take care of his camping equipment and the group retreats into the house. Later on, they hear a knocking at the door and discover it's the diseased man that Bert shot before. Desperate for help, the hermit comes after the group. He tries to drive away in their car with Bert firing his gun to scare him off. The hermit vomits blood all over the windscreen and the seats of the car. On trying to approach Paul, Marcy and Karen, Paul sets-light to the infected man and he runs aflame back into the woods.

In the morning a young deputy named Winston shows up at the cabin and promises Paul he'll call a tow truck although he seems more distracted with partying. Meanwhile, Jeff and Bert come to a woman's house to ask for a ride into town. They soon discover that the woman was related to the hermit they killed so they leave quickly. During this time, Karen begins to feel ill and goes to bed to rest. Later that afternoon Paul comes into her bedroom and, while touching her, discovers rotted spots on her thighs. Karen is then quarantined in the tool shed outside. Fearing that they will soon also become infected, the others begin to argue with one another to the point that they cook their own meals and do not sleep near one another.

The next day they discover Karen's condition is deteriorating fast. Bert also realises the he himself is infected with the virus. While loading Karen up into the car to search for a doctor, Karen vomits and they instead put her back into the shed. While Marcy and Paul tend to her, Bert drives off to find a doctor and Jeff panics and abandons everyone running off with two six-packs of beer.

Bert drives to the convenience store that the group visited earlier pleading for a doctor. He shows increasing signs of infection. The young boy on the bench then runs over and bites Bert, thereby infecting himself. His father comes outside and, rather than helping Bert, tries to kill him. Bert speeds off and the father grabs two of his friends who arm themselves with rifles to go after Bert.

Now alone in the cabin, Marcy begins to despair. Paul attempts to reassure her that everything will be OK. Unconvinced, Marcy claims that having sex with the person next to you is "all you want to do when you know you're going to die." She seduces Paul and they quickly undress before Marcy throws him onto the bed and they begin having wild sex. Paul expresses concern that Marcy doesn't use condoms. Marcy brushes him off with an insincere assurance, "Don't worry, I'm healthy!", while continuing to ride him undeterred. During the sexual encounter, Paul squeezes Marcy's back so hard that his fingers leave marks on her skin.

After they finish having sex, Paul worries about not wearing protection as he is unsure if Marcy has the disease or not. He goes into the bathroom and attempts to disinfect his penis by pouring Listerine over it. Shortly afterwards, Marcy washes her face in the bathroom and notices the marks on her back that Paul made while they were having sex. The marks seem to worry her and she chastises Paul for "really doing a number on her back." Paul tells Marcy that he's going to look for Jeff so that they can all walk back to civilization. Marcy implores Paul to stay with her, but Paul seems agitated and uncomfortable around Marcy since their sexual encounter. Now completely alone, Marcy has a bath and weeps. The marks Paul made on her back are shown to be developing in to gruesome wounds like Karen's.

Paul heads over to the local reservoir, and notices a body floating in the river. He climbs down the ladder and moves the body with a stick. He sees that it is the infected hermit. He also comes to the realization that the water supply has become infected. As he is poking the body with the stick, the dock's ladder rots and gives way. Paul falls into the water onto the body, thus he too is now infected.

Marcy is shown shaving her legs in the bathtub and notices they are beginning to deteriorate. She screams and runs outside where she is attacked and ripped apart by a now infected Dr. Mambo. Paul returns and Dr. Mambo attempts to attack him too. However, Paul kills him with Bert's rifle.

Now alone, Paul goes to check on Karen whose skin has now almost fully rotted off. To end her suffering, he clubs and impales her with a shovel and then runs for help. Bert struggles back to the cabin with the men in pursuit. When Bert's pursuers open the door, Bert tries to shoot one of the men but is killed by a shotgun round. Paul hits one of the men in the face with a blunt object and as he falls the man unintentionally fires a round into the convenience store owner. Paul emerges from the cabin and drives a screwdriver through the ear of the last of the pursuing men. He then kills the wounded store owner with a sharpened branch as the man tries to crawl away. While fleeing the cabin, Paul attempts to shout a warning for Jeff, who is still missing, that the water is contaminated and that he should avoid drinking any of it. Paul checks a cave and sees someone deeper in the cave. Thinking its Jeff, he checks but finds that its Grim's dead body and that Jeff is not there.

Paul then runs back to the pursuers' car and drives into town. Along the way he slams head-on into a deer, damaging the windshield and the car. He continues on foot until he comes to a party by a campfire with Winston in attendance. He confronts him and asks about the tow truck just as a police officer gets on the radio warning them about Paul and his group and that they are to be shot on sight. Hearing this, a kid with a guitar attacks Paul but instead hits another guy who is playing a harmonica. The harmonica is knocked into the kid's throat killing him while Paul vomits blood onto the guitarist's face as the rest of the kids leave. With two of the kids dead, Winston tells Paul that hes an idiot and that he "fucked up the party". Paul tells him that the party is over and knocks Winston out with a stick. Paul is picked-up by a passing trucker and brought to the hospital.

The sheriff and doctors interrogate him while he is lying in a hospital bed, trying to discover the source of the infection, but Paul is slightly dazed and unable to answer all their questions. When he is left alone, Paul pulls up his hospital gown to reveal the tell-tale marks of the disease on his belly.

The doctors determine they are not equipped to handle the situation and that he should be transported to a nearby regional hospital. His driver turns out to be Winston who tells Paul that they still have a long night of partying left. Paul tries to warn him about the water in the reservoir but he can't speak well and only says "water". Winston says he will take him to get water.

The next morning, Jeff comes out of the woods were he was hiding and makes his way back to the cabin. As he looks around, horrified that his friends are dead, his grief is soon replaced by ecstasy when he realizes that he has survived. He walks out the front door but is suddenly shot to death by the police. They take his body and pile it on top of the others, which are burned in a fire pit.

While unconscious, Paul is dumped into a stream by Winston and left to die. Paul's body infects the water in the stream. Further down are two kids collecting water for their lemonade stand. They sell some lemonade to the sheriff, his deputies and more locals at the store. A natural spring water truck leave the store with bottles of infected water in the truck.


The Students

The students rent out the titular cabin for a fall break vacation. None of their last names are ever mentioned.

  • Paul (Rider Strong), a shy guy who grew up with Karen and has developed a crush on her, although they have never been in a relationship. Along with Marcy, Paul accidentally set the hermit on fire after he began to attack the students' pickup truck. Despite his unrequited love for Karen, Paul is seduced by Marcy late in the movie and has sex with her, while Karen lies dying in the tool shed. Though initially reluctant, Paul ends up holding Marcy so passionately that he leaves painful marks on her back. It is possible that he contracted the disease from this unprotected sexual encounter with Marcy, who was already sick. He may also have caught it when he fell into the contaminated reservoir, or from touching Karen's blood. Paul bludgeons Karen to death, to put her out of her agony. Paul is last seen laying in a ditch, close to death. Along with Winston, Paul returns in Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.
  • Bert (James DeBello), a vulgar practical joker who says what he thinks and does what he feels like. He is the first student to encounter the hermit, but panics when he sees how sick the hermit is and accidentally shoots him and leaves him for dead. Later when the hermit shows up at the cabin door, Bert tries to avoid being recognized by the hermit, but fails and then becomes the driving force behind chasing the hermit off. He gets the disease when he drinks some (contaminated) water, something he bet Jeff he wouldn't do for the whole trip. He discovers he is ill shortly after repairing the truck and then drives off alone when the other students are unable to agree on taking Karen with them. When he seeks help from a man at a nearby market, the man's son bites Bert and then Bert is subsequently hunted and killed by the man for exposing his son to the disease.
  • Karen (Jordan Ladd), a cheery young woman who has known Paul for many years. She seems oblivious to Paul's love for her, but asks him to kiss her early in the movie "just to know if he's a good kisser." Karen gets the disease when Paul unwittingly offers her a glass of contaminated water. She is the first of the students to catch the disease. After resting, feeling nauseous, for most of the second day in the cabin, she begins to bleed profusely from the legs. Her friends quarantine her in the tool shed, where she remains, becoming increasingly sicker, until a mad dog gets into the tool shed and eats her face off, while she's still alive. She dies shortly after when Paul bludgeons her to death, as a mercy killing.
  • Marcy (Cerina Vincent), an attractive young woman who is in a relationship with Jeff at the beginning of the film. Along with Paul, she accidentally sets the hermit on fire when he attacks their vehicle. She apparently catches the disease by drinking some contaminated water while the group are arguing about reporting the incident to the police (though she is never explicitly shown drinking the water), another possible cause for her catching the illness is eating the chili she prepared the night the students find out Karen is sick, having stated that she made sure to rinse out the bowls, while the others were wary of eating anything others prepared, the chili may have become infected in this way. She seems to have a stronger immunity to the disease as it takes her much longer to show symptoms than the others. Marcy has an apparently deserved reputation for being promiscuous. Within minutes of her boyfriend walking out on her (because she touched seriously ill Karen), Marcy seduces Paul and has unprotected sex with him, simply because he was "the person next to her". Her sexual urge is so strong that she disregards both her own and Paul's health by not bothering to use a condom (both her and Paul are unsure if the other has the disease). When Paul awkwardly leaves, shortly after they had sex, Marcy is left alone. She has a bath, where the symptoms of the disease make themselves gruesomely apparent. She dies when she is chased away from the cabin and then mauled to death by a mad dog. Marcy is the first student to die.
  • Jeff (Joey Kern), is a good-looking, but self-centered young man who is Marcy's boyfriend at the beginning of the film. Despite being sympathetic to the sick hermit's plight when they first meet, Jeff doesn't hesitate to chase him off with force when the Hermit begins to destroy their vehicle. After the group accidentally incinerates the hermit, Jeff is unwilling to report it to the police, but eventually agrees to when the others protest. He seems incredibly germaphobic and covers his mouth and nose a lot after Karen begins to show signs of the disease. This eventually causes him to abandon his friends, including his girlfriend, because they insisted on helping Karen, thereby exposing themselves to the disease. He runs off with the beer supply (the only reliable drinking source), and hides in the forest until the next morning when he returns to the cabin and finds the bloody remains of his friends. He is shot and killed by local police, who assume he is sick, though ironically, Jeff is the only student who never caught the disease.

Secondary characters

  • Henry (Arie Verveen) "The Hermit", is the first human shown catching the disease and is patient zero in the outbreak surrounding the cabin. He catches the disease by getting sprayed with contaminated blood, while inspecting his dead dog. The next time he is seen, the disease has already ravaged him severely. He meets Bert and asks for help, but his pleas are so desperate that Bert freaks out and accidentally shoots him. Later, he makes his way to the students' cabin and, after being turned away, attempts to steal their car so he can get to a hospital. A struggle ensues in which the hermit is accidentally set on fire. He runs into the woods screaming. The next morning, his charred dead body is seen floating in a reservoir; the same reservoir that supplies the cabin with water. His diseased body contaminates the water supply, causing all of the subsequent infections.
  • Deputy Winston Olsen (Giuseppe Andrews), a deputy for the local sheriff's office and a comic relief character. He's obsessed with parties/partying and picking up girls. He seems to have difficulty remembering and completing jobs he has to do. Although he is a police officer, he does not seem committed to upholding the law as he is seen partying with underage drinkers, rather than arresting them. He is first seen when he comes out to investigate the disturbance at the cabin where the hermit was incinerated. He promises to send a tow-truck for the disabled car, but he never gets around to it. He is last seen driving Paul to a hospital better equipped to diagnose his illness, although Paul ends up being left in a ditch beside the river. Winston appears as a lead character in Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.
  • Dennis (Matthew Helms), a mentally-disabled boy who bites strangers with no provocation. He seems to have prowess in martial arts, though he's incapable of determining appropriate times to use these moves. He contracts the disease when he bites Bert, who has it. He is last seen in a hospital bed, wearing an oxygen mask. His ultimate fate is unknown.
  • Justin "Grim" (Eli Roth), a fellow camper in the woods that the students meet on their first night there. Though initially wary of him, they eventually allow him to sit with them at their campfire when he offers to share his bag of pot. He is the owner of the fierce dog, Dr. Mambo, who continues to terrorize the students throughout the movie and eventually kills Marcy. Grim isn't seen after the first night, until Paul finds his mutilated body in a cave, a couple of days later. Apparently he was killed by his own dog by being ripped in half. It is unknown if he ever had the disease.
  • Tommy (Hal Courtney), Dennis's father. A gruff man who works at the local store and doesn't seem to like strangers. After Dennis bites Bert without provocation, thereby exposing himself to the disease, Tommy suddenly believes that he is justified in killing not only Bert, but all the students at the cabin. He believes this needs to be done to "fix the problem." Tommy accomplishes his goal of killing Bert, but shortly after is killed himself by Paul, who had been warned about the residents by Bert.

Other characters

  • Old Man Cadwell (Robert Harris), mans the counter at the nearby market. A misunderstanding makes the students think he is an anti-black racist, but he is eventually shown to be friends with several African Americans.
  • Fenster (Richard Boone) & Andy (Tim Parati), two of Tommy's friends who assist him in hunting and eventually killing Bert. Andy is shot and killed by Bert as he makes his last stand, while Fenster is stabbed and killed by Paul, who had been secretly waiting for the three hunters.
  • Ray Shawn (Brandon Johnson)
  • Bald headed man in story (Adam Roth)
  • The Bad Influence (Matt Schwarz)

In the movie, a man in a rabbit suit randomly appears in the hospital scene. The credits state that "We will never tell" played the rabbit man.

The rabbit suit man appears in Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever dancing at the prom.

Cerina Vincent's brother has a cameo in the campfire scene towards the end of the film.


Eli Roth co-wrote Cabin Fever with friend and former NYU roommate Randy Pearlstein in 1995 while Roth was working as a production assistant for Howard Stern's Private Parts.[3] Early attempts to sell the script were unsuccessful because studios felt that the horror genre had become unprofitable.[1] In 1996, the film Scream was released to great success, leading studios to once again become interested in horror properties. However, Roth still could not sell his script, as studios told him that it should be more like Scream.[1] Many potential financiers also found the film's content to be unsettling, including not only the gore, but the use of the word "nigger" early in the film.[1] The script was not produced until the fall of 2001, when Roth and Lauren Moews raised $50,000 to begin production with producers Evan Astrowsky and Sam Froelich. The rest of the money was raised during the shooting.


The film was shot on a small budget of $1.5 million. The original killer dog was so old and tired that all of its scenes had to be re-shot with a new dog. With no time or money to find a replacement, the producers cast a real police attack dog that was so vicious and unpredictable that no actors could appear with it on camera.[2] Composer Angelo Badalamenti agreed to compose some musical themes for the film out of enthusiasm for the material. However, the bulk of the film's score was composed by Nathan Barr who has gone on to score both of Eli's Hostel films.[2] Actor Michael Rosenbaum was originally cast to play Justin aka Grim, but when Rosenbaum wasn't able to commit to the shoot due to another production, Smallville that was taking off, the role was filled by the director himself.

Joey Kern sustained numerous unrelated injuries to his eye during filming, each one requiring a trip to hospital. His injuries disrupted the filming schedule and many scenes that were to be shot later were rescheduled at the last minute, so that minimal shooting time would be lost while Kern recovered. This resulted in numerous supposedly daytime scenes (mainly ones inside the cabin) being shot in the middle of the night.

One such scene was the sex scene between Paul and Marcy towards the end of the film. Cerina Vincent commented on how uncomfortable it was filming such a scene stark naked in the middle of a freezing cold night[4], but also remarked on how the cold made for excellent filming conditions for a sex scene, as coldness supposedly makes breasts seem perkier.

The same sex scene had been a point of contention between Roth and Vincent earlier in the production process. Roth had originally intended for the scene to display an over-the-shoulder shot of Vincent's breasts, and then a clear shot of her ass as she thrusted against Rider Strong's character. Vincent was willing to bare her breasts for the film, but not her ass. Roth really wanted the scene to contain an ass shot, and persistantly tried to change Vincent's mind, but Vincent replied that he would need to find another actress for the role if he was determined to have the shot. Eventually, the two hammerred out a compromise in which precisely one inch of Vincent's butt crack would be exposed during the sex scene. The rest of her ass would be covered by a bedsheet. When filming commenced, Roth measured the agreed one inch with a ruler and then the bedsheet was taped to Vincent's ass at the designated level, so that it would stay in place even during the vigorous motions that the scene demanded. Only the final portion of the sex scene features the one inch, at the beginning of the scene, Vincent's ass is totally covered by the bedsheet.

At one point, during a break in filming, Rider Strong went exploring alone in the forest. He had been filming one of his more gruesome scenes and his face was covered in bloody make-up. He stumbled upon a group of schoolgirls on a field trip. The girls were initially horrified by Strong's appearance (not realizing it was make up, but then someone recognized him as the actor from Boy Meets World, and Strong soon found himself trying to escape from a mob of starstruck girls. When he eventually found his way back to the film site, he vowed never to wander off between takes again.


Grossing $33,553,394 at the box office internationally, the film was marked #3 and the highest grossing film released by Lions Gate Home Entertainment in 2003. Critical response to the film was positive, with a rave review from the New York Times and Film Comment magazine. Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gives the film a score of 63%.

Many directors such as Peter Jackson loved the film, and gave him a quote to use in all the advertising. Quentin Tarantino cited Cabin Fever as the best new American film in his Kill Bill Vol. 2 interview for Premiere magazine, and called Eli Roth "The Future of Horror." The film was also #28 on Bravo TV's "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments"[5] Roger Ebert, however, scorned the film, stating "The movie adds up to a few good ideas and a lot of bad ones, wandering around in search of an organizing principle."[citation needed] The film received a "Two Thumbs Down" rating on the television show Ebert & Roeper. Richard Roeper called it an "ugly gorefest" and said "Cabin Fever is a particularly disgusting and brainless version of this all-too-familiar horror film". Roger Ebert said "Director Eli Roth is trying do about four things at once, to make a horror film, a comedy, a satire and a political parable about infectious diseases and none of them work" and he commented by saying "this movie is a mess". They ended the review with Richard Roeper suggesting to viewers "don't bring snacks, if you insist on going to this movie, don't bring any food into the theater because you'll be losing it on your way out."[6] "Cabin Fever" over time has grown to be a cult classic, and Roth was nominated for a several Saturn Awards, and an Empire Award for Best Newcomer. "Cabin Fever" was voted Best Horror Film by readers of the website in 2004.


The re-release is set for the middle of 2010 with a newly restored Director's Cut on Blu-Ray.[7]


Both Rider Strong and Giuseppe Andrews will be returning in Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, which is being directed by Ti West (The Roost, The House Of The Devil) from a screenplay written by Joshua Malkin, story conceived by Randy Pearlstein and Ti West. Rider Strong will reprise his role as Paul and Giuseppe Andrews will reprise his role as Deputy Winston. Larry Fessenden and Alexi Wasser also star.[8][9]


External links

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