Five college-age friends head off into an unspecified southern backwoods (likely North Carolina, since that's where the film was shot) for a week-long retreat at a remote cabin and unwittingly find themselves at Ground Zero of a virulent flesh-eating virus outbreak. There are no phones or phone reception with which to call for help, their pickup truck is contaminated by a diseased hermit who spews gobbets of chunky, bloody phlegm all over its interior, a vicious dog lurks in the nearby woods, heavily armed (and disease-aware) rednecks are encroaching, and as the disease proliferates, the group's bond erodes along with their flesh. In short, it's a scenario where there's simply no way out, and watching its bleak inevitability play out is riveting.
That sums up the basic plot in a nutshell, but my capsule description doesn't get across just how good CABIN FEVER is. Like THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, it takes the "youth in the remote woodland cabin" template and uses that done-to-death setup to tell a compelling story populated by characters that we get to know and therefore care about, and writer/director Eli Roth, a dyed-in-the-wool horror movie junkie if ever there was one, more than delivers the goods. He obviously gives a damn about what he's crafting and approaches it with far more intelligence than one would expect. He wrings terrific performances from the entire cast and, for a film of its recent vintage, piles on the blood and gore like it was extra gravy being slathered all over an especially tasty Thanksgiving feast. Some of CABIN FEVER's gory set pieces have earned their place among the highlights of the 2000's horror pantheon, especially what Roth refers to as the "finger-bang misfire" — a sequence that majorly squicked-out the audience when I saw it in the theater during it's opening weekend — and the now-infamous bit of post-coital leg-shaving...
Watching the film again for this 31-day project, I was pleased to see that CABIN FEVER's qualities actually seem to have improved with age. It's rock-solid from top to bottom and it's so enjoyable that I was able to sit through it a total of four times over the past few days, first to watch it straight through, and then three more times to absorb three of the DVD's four audio commentaries, each of which was very entertaining. The film hits the right balance of humor and outright, no-way-out terror, and it absolutely holds up during repeat viewings, so take my word for it and don't get mad at me for not going into minute detail about the movie's particulars, an intentional move so you'll be spurred to see it for yourself. And in closing, just allow me to say, "PANCAAAAAAAAAKES!!!"
Poster from the original theatrical release.