You and I and all those people out there with a vocal love of film have ruined it for everyone, pimping movies up, falling in love with mediocre films and championing them to near-legendary status. We’ve embraced turkeys, legitimized borderline movies, and elevated modest films in our favorite franchises above and beyond realistic standards. We’ve even embraced the films everyone likes, somehow adding a credibility to them that transcends the mainstream. Sacred cows, little flicks, and everything in between. It’s time we took a look inward and came clean with 25 movies we think need to be taken down a peg or two.
These are our four categories for this list:
These guys have had it too easy. Far too easy. Don’t believe the insane hype.
Good flicks that have gotten too damn big for their britches.
Asshole, you love this film for all the wrong reasons.
WHAT THE FUCK
Something went horribly wrong here, and it’s carried over to the fans, who are blinded by shizer.
Your guide: Nick Nunziata
Its Legacy: Eli Roth instantly granted admissed into the “Masters of Horror” extended family, leading to cameo appearances and carte blanche for years to come. Peter Jackson’s reputation as a man of taste threatened by his stamp of approval of this film. Entire new generation of horror fans look at The Evil Dead as that “other, old cabin based horror film”. Jordan Ladd wisely chooses to disrobe for Club Dread instead. Cerina Vincent’s nipple track record continues intact. Hostel happens [GOOD]. Hostel: Part II happens [BAD].
Why It’s Here: Cabin Fever is one of those films that a lot of people were juiced about before it ever found its way on a screen. Thanks in no small part to websites and a giant block of text on the poster and advertisements featuring Peter Jackson’s telltale blurb. The actual product not only didn’t live up to the hype; it flat out wasn’t good. Guiseppe Andrews is amusing and there’s some sexy skin, but this feels like a bunch of ideas thrown at the wall built on little moments seemingly culled from Eli Roth’s adolescence of horror fandom. There’s no denying the guy’s skill and intent, but this film is case in point about a genre’s fandom being sold a bill of goods.
The balance of horror and comedy isn’t balanced well as in films made by the people who Roth wants to be [he even used “Fake Shemps” in the credits] and though the film is gory it’s not the kind of gore that warrants cult status. And then there’s Rider Strong, one of the worst leads in recent memory in a genre filled with horrible leads. And though there are plenty of yokels to serve as villainous adversaries, the flesh-eating virus and its results are less than iconic horror cinematic stalwarts.
Horror is the easiest genre to be in. The most overcrowded genre. There are dozens of “Next Big Things”. Cabin Fever is one of the more unlikely success stories in the genre I love and hate with equal aplomb these days. The fact this film is beloved and successful mystifies the shit out of me.
These Ain’t Chopped Liver Alternatives: The Evil Dead, The Ruins, Street Trash, The Road Warrior.
Russ Fischer Agrees: I’m man enough to admit that my first take on Cabin Fever was harmed by outside influence; I certainly had a certain vision of the film in mind based solely on the tangential involvement of David Lynch. Obviously, I was disappointed there. But when I revisited the film much later in an effort to give it a fair shake, I wasn’t any more taken with it. Moreover, all the problems that glared out the first time were still in place.
Cabin Fever is a movie that loves other horror films and even from behind the lens you can sense that Eli Roth is giddy to finally count his old heroes as peers. But that doesn’t change that the movie is scattershot and often dull, saddled with uncharismatic actors and a script cast out of lead. I’ll concur with a lack of enthusiasm for Rider Strong; working on a budget a director will frequently be stuck with people who aren’t right for the part, but by handling the undesirable mix well they can prove their mettle. Roth doesn’t manage that. Maybe he wanted Strong from day one, but the movie feels like he just blindly forged ahead and hoped for the best, without really trying to work his unsuitable actors into the material.
The gore is certainly nasty — which I appreciate — but while I squirm a bit while watching, two hours later it’s all forgotten. In a film that’s full of deliberately weird moments, the only one that sticks in my memory is the shaving scene. The set pieces have none of the mental staying power you get from Fulci and Raimi, which is hardly a surprise, but it falls shy even of less imposing benchmarks set by recent stuff like Severance. A movie like Cabin Fever will always have adherents, like people who saw it as their first major horror movie or who just want to see the gore, but personally I’ll never understand the love or respect.
Justin Waddell Disagrees: I can’t imagine that this pick is going to cause people to sputter and wheeze and clench teeth and ball fists like yesterday’s selection of T2 managed to do. However, I really hope I’m not alone in my like of Roth’s first flick, the splatter-laugher, kitchen-sinkish Cabin Fever. Simply avoid sipping the water that Nick and Russ “prepared” for you above, and you (and your lovely, lovely skin) should be just fine. As Cabin Fever lapped up the accolades on the festival circuit, it seemed like Roth became a brand name overnight. And when you are billed as the next big (John Carpenter’s) thing in horror, you better be prepared for the crosshairs to dance across your melon. While Roth doesn’t deserve to be crowned a great puppeteer of the horror genre this early in his career, I’d rather see his creativity and enthusiasm embraced rather than brushed aside.
When I first watched Cabin Fever, I’ll admit that I didn’t know what to make of it. I was prepared for a horror film and got something else entirely. Subsequent airings of the movie on late night TV and Roth’s Hostel have helped to ratchet up my fondness for the flick. Roth is smart enough to know that the vacationing college kids movie (the premise for every flick he’s made, by the way) is at once a great skeleton to drape a horror tale across and a tired catalyst. Roth’s instincts have him steering his film towards the absurd rather than straight terror, and I appreciate that. Plus, I think the homages he welds onto the movie are just pretty fun to pick out. Instead of the banjo-pickin’ of Deliverance, we get karate-kickin’ as a substitute. Instead of Wilfred Brimley’s Blair being locked up in a shack in The Thing, we get a sequestered Jordan Ladd taking his heavily mustachioed place. A Brimley/Ladd swap? Haters, how can you not at least throw a little love Roth’s way for that alone?
Nick is right to single out Giuseppe Andrews and Rider Strong above. Andrews’ party-focused Deputy Winston is one of the highlights of the film. Strong, on the other hand, is certainly the weak link here. I’m sure Roth was excited by the novelty of upsetting the clean-as-a-whistle image of the Boy Meets World star, but it doesn’t pay off. Unlike Debello (in Frat-mode) and a germaphobic Joey Kern (who gets offed in a nice Night of the Living Dead tribute), Strong is humorless throughout. You have to wonder if a zanier lead, one that at least looks like he’s unhinged as he dispatches the ragtag local posse, would have made for a better movie. Anyway, the performance would hurt the film more if Roth wasn’t so good at distracting us – with swallowed harmonicas and bunny costumes – at every turn.
Hostel: Part II was a disappointment (just because it seemed like such a retread), but I loved Roth’s Thanksgiving trailer in Grindhouse (like everyone else) and his commentaries on Trailers From Hell.com are great. Cabin Fever and Roth are both good for horror. I rest my wordy case.