Five college kids rent a cabin in the woods and fall pray to a horrifying virus.
I typically don’t care for Eli Roth; I find his films to be poorly written and filled with meaningless torturous violence and unnecessary superfluous sex scenes. In fact, out of the three films I’ve tried to watch by him, this is the only one I’ve made it all the way through. When I worked at a movie theater I tried to watch “Green Inferno” but found it painfully hard to watch due to the horrific acting and abysmal writing; when I was still in high school, a friend and I tried to watch “Hostel” but we turned it off after the first twenty minutes... Roth just isn’t for me (I have yet to see “The House with the Clock in it’s Walls”, and that one actually interests me). However, if I had to pick one of his films to watch, it would be this one… not because I think this is a good movie, but because I think it’s probably the best Roth can do. It’s somewhat restrained when it comes to the violence (though the sex scenes are still a bit much), the writing actually has a somewhat meta tone and reminded me a lot of “The Cabin in the Woods”, and the overall concept is something I haven’t seen done before, and it works pretty well as a story. Still, it is an Eli Roth film, and while I can’t claim this to be a great movie, at least I made it through this one.
“That guy asked for our help. We lit him on fire.”
Five college kids, Paul (Rider Strong, “Irish Twins”), Karen (Jordan Ladd, “Death Proof”), Bert (James DeBello, “Detroit Rock City”), Marcy (Cerina Vincent, “Not Another Teen Movie”), and Jeff (Joey Kern, “Super Troopers”) head to an isolated cabin in the woods for a week of rest and relaxation. After a sick man comes near their cabin, the friends try to isolate themselves from a flesh-eating virus, but the disease continues to spread.
This film suffers from a lot of the same problems as Roth’s other movies; mainly, Roth’s fingerprints are all over it. Roth’s writing is absolutely horrendous for 90% of this film, it’s as if he’s never heard a real conversation between two real people before. Almost every line of dialogue is stilted and strange, but for this movie that sort of works to its advantage. As I mentioned above, this film has a sort of Meta feeling. It takes genre tropes and adheres to them in a way that’s almost laughable, but then it twists them ever so slightly, so that it feels as if the film is sort of making fun of these tropes while still using them. I say that it sort of works, because it only works in half the scenes. Sometimes the writing is so on the nose that I don’t think it possibly could’ve been written as earnest dialogue, and other times, I’m not sure if I’m giving Roth more credit than he’s due. I want to believe that the silly lines and situations were all done intentionally, but maybe Roth truly believed what he was showing us would be scary. Either way, there are scenes that come off as absolutely hilarious (sick guy vomiting blood all over their car for no reason- many of Bert’s scenes- characters making absolutely ridiculous choices for stupid reasons), and those were the scenes that worked best for me. I also think that the concept- a super-contagious flesh-eating virus- is a cool idea for a horror movie. For me it felt very reminiscent of early scenes from Stephen King’s The Stand; scary because you didn’t quite know the rules of the disease- what it did or how it spread. We really haven’t had too many horror films where a disease is the scariest thing on screen, but if you think about it plagues and sickness are responsible for more deaths than Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers, and Freddy Kruger a billion times over. Sickness is a real killer, and it’s cool to have a movie address that. But while I appreciate the concept, the execution of this film, much like all of Roth’s films, lacks a lot.
Roth’s direction in particular never has any flair. His shots are boring, and often poorly framed and his staging almost always feels unnatural. His characters are all the same, they have no sense of individuality (“college kid” is not a personality trait)- his female characters in particular are painfully one-dimensional. He thinks gore is inherently scary, but it’s not if it’s not set up correctly. The early 2000s version of what is ‘cool’ feels very dated in this movie (kids with hair so gelled it looks to be made of plastic- California bro accents- lengthy sex scenes with no reason). While I appreciate some of the stuff Roth was doing in this film, there is still a ton to pick apart. It’s a film that is perfectly passable as a Halloween season pick because of some of the funnier moments, but it’s not a film I’d ever go out of my way to recommend (again, that might be swayed by my dislike of Roth).
As much as I dislike the films of Eli Roth, I found this entry to his oeuvre to be his most palatable. While this movie isn’t good, it does seem to play with a lot of tropes, and it seems to have fun doing it. There’s a cool concept here, and even if it isn’t executed in the best way possible it is interesting, and there are some decent scenes. As a whole I’m pretty ambivalent about this movie; it’s all right, but nothing spectacular… that blood-vomiting scene was pretty freaking hysterical though… but maybe I just have a dark sense of humor. Either way, I’d love to hear what you thought of the film!
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