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'FEVER' MOSTLY UNAPPEALING.

Byline: Glenn Whipp Film Critic

`CABIN FEVER'' is the year's third schlock shocker movie that harkens back to the good old days of the '70s when horror movies had minimum budgets and maximum bloodletting. Much like its 2003 predecessors ``House of 1000 Corpses'' and ``Wrong Turn,'' ``Cabin Fever'' is not all that funny and not at all scary, a piece of derivative camp that is too busy paying homage to Tobe Hooper and Sam Raimi to bother coming up with much new on its own.

Writer-director Eli Roth sure thinks he's clever, though, and works a little too hard throughout the movie trying to prove his point, all the while undercutting whatever suspense and terror he might have hoped to generate. Whatever bursts of imagination that manage to get through - after a character is set on fire, a teenager opines, ``Don't worry, the rain will put him out'' - are usually followed by a half-dozen in-jokes that could only be appreciated by someone who still watches ``Evil Dead'' on a regular basis.

Roth, directing from a screenplay he wrote with Randy Pearlstein, wants to set up all the horror formulas and then explode them (usually with a burst of blood). Thus, he sends five attractive college grads off to the woods for a little rest and sexual recreation. On the way, they pass a general store that's minded by the sort of bumpkins that would populate ``Deliverance: The Next Generation,'' only here ``Dueling Banjos'' has been replaced by a creepy score partly by David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti.

At least Roth knows to steal from quality. Besides Lynch, ``Deliverance,'' ``Texas Chainsaw Massacre'' and ``Evil Dead,'' Roth lifts ideas from ``Night of the Living Dead'' and Wes Craven's ``Last House on the Left.'' And as the action unfolds and his self-absorbed characters face a flesh-eating virus, it's more fun to identify the lifts than to watch all the peeling skin. (The latter unfolds rather badly, I might add; the mediocre makeup effects certainly contribute to the movie's paucity of menace.)

``Cabin Fever'' sparked a bidding war at last year's Toronto Film Festival. Like many other movies that win awards at, say, Sundance and then disappear into oblivion due to audience indifference, ``Cabin Fever'' has a limited appeal, confined here to the small crowd that finds self-conscious irony satisfying even if it has nothing new to say.

CABIN FEVER - Two stars

(R: strong violence and gore, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use)

Starring: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Joey Kern, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello.

Director: Eli Roth.

Running time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Playing: Wide release.

In a nutshell: Another horror movie that wants to be ``The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,'' but winds up being a bloody mess.

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Photo:

Cerina Vincent tries to get away from it all in ``Cabin Fever.''
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Title Annotation:Review; U
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 12, 2003
Words:470
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