14 Surprising Facts About Cabin Fever

Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Fifteen years ago, Cabin Fever reinvigorated the modern horror movie scene by going back to the past. Written and directed by Eli Roth, the 1980s-style horror throwback followed a familiar genre trope—a group of college students make their way to a cabin in the woods—then turned it on its head. One sequel, one prequel, and one reboot later, the original film remains one of the best horror films of the past 20 years and has turned Roth into a modern master of horror. Here are 14 things you might not have known about Cabin Fever.

1. ELI ROTH GOT THE IDEA FOR CABIN FEVER WHEN HE DEVELOPED A SERIOUS SKIN INFECTION.

It wasn’t quite as gory as in the movie, but the idea for Cabin Fever came from an experience writer/director Eli Roth had in his late teens. “The initial idea for Cabin Fever came while I was working on a horse farm in Iceland when I was 19 years old,” Roth told Cinema.com. “I had been cleaning out a barn and got a skin infection on my face. I woke up in the middle of the night scratching my cheek, thinking I had a mosquito bite. I looked down at my hand and saw chunks of skin. The next morning I attempted to shave and literally, shaved half my face off. The strangest part was not only did it not hurt—it actually satisfied some strange itch underneath my skin. I went to see a dermatologist, who, judging by the horrified and puzzled look on her face, had never seen anything like it before.”

2. ROTH WROTE THE SCRIPT WHILE HOWARD STERN WAS SLEEPING.

Eli Roth and Arie Verveen in 'Cabin Fever' (2003)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Roth found the time to write the bulk of the script for Cabin Fever when he was hired as a nighttime production assistant to Howard Stern on Private Parts, where his job mostly required waking Stern up in the morning. “They built Howard an apartment in Silvercup Studios and I stayed outside all night, and wrote Cabin Fever,” Roth told Deadline.

3. IT TOOK EIGHT YEARS TO MAKE THE FILM.

Though Roth was often cited as an overnight sensation, the process of getting Cabin Fever made was far from quick. “I wrote Cabin Fever in 1995 so it was an eight-year process for me,” Roth told Dread Central. “It took six years just to raise the money. So many people told me that I was crazy because horror was a dead genre when I was working on trying to make Cabin Fever happen. But I knew I had to keep persevering to make the movie become a reality.”

4. THE FILM SHUT DOWN AFTER ONE DAY OF FILMING.

Boy Meets World star Rider Strong landed a starring role in Cabin Fever. Though he hoped it would be an opportunity for him to break away from Shawn Hunter, the character he played on the beloved teen sitcom, Strong admitted in an interview with Reno News & Review that, “We didn’t think this movie was going to get made. The first day of shooting, our independent investors pulled out because of the anthrax scare.” (The film began shooting just a month after 9/11.)

"It was insane working on the film," Strong's co-star, Jordan Ladd, told Media Mikes. "We shut down, we got up and running, and then we shut down again. We just hoped to finish the movie and hoped people would really understand and appreciate it. We had a blast doing it, even the tougher stuff. I'd rather work that way than on a big-budget fancy thing where you are completely separate from the process."

5. THE FILM—AND ROTH—PROVIDED JORDAN LADD WITH A CRASH COURSE IN HORROR MOVIES.

Ladd wasn’t much of a horror movie buff before Cabin Fever came around. “The genre kind of found me,” Ladd told Wicked Horror. “I hadn’t really defined myself as a horror fan at that point. But once we did Cabin Fever and Eli was so great with recommending references, older classics in the genre, I got a real education on that way of storytelling. So it kind of turned me into a fan and I started seeing great horror films that I really hadn’t seen before.”

6. THE SAME STUDIOS THAT PASSED ON PRODUCING THE FILM ENGAGED IN A BIDDING WAR FOR THE FINISHED PRODUCT.

Though Roth’s original plan for the film was to sell the script and have a studio produce it, no one was interested in buying it (hence the aforementioned eight-year process of getting it made). But a successful showing at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival changed all that: the film sparked a bidding war, with Lionsgate ultimately emerging victorious. Roth was paid $3.5 million for the film, and promised $12 million in prints and advertising. Of the many studios competing to acquire Cabin Fever, most had already passed on producing it.

7. THE FILM TURNED A HEALTHY PROFIT.

Lionsgate’s investment in Roth turned out to be a smart one. The film, which cost $1.5 million to make, ended up grossing more than $30.5 million worldwide.

8. PETER JACKSON WAS A FAN.

After hearing about Cabin Fever from several of his The Lord of the Rings collaborators, Peter Jackson requested that a print be sent to him in New Zealand, where he was filming The Return of the King. Impressed by what he was seeing, Jackson shut down production on his own film—twice!—to screen Cabin Fever for his cast and crew. Eventually, Jackson invited Roth to The Lord of the Rings set, where he offered to supply Roth with a quote about the film for his production materials. It read: "Brilliant! Fantastic! Horror fans have been waiting years for a movie like Cabin Fever. I loved it!”

9. QUENTIN TARANTINO DECLARED ROTH “THE FUTURE OF HORROR.”

In a 2004 interview with Premiere, Quentin Tarantino talked at length about his admiration for Cabin Fever, and called Roth “the future of horror.” The admiration was mutual. Tarantino and Roth would go on to become good friends and regular collaborators. In addition to directing Thanksgiving, one of the fake trailers in the middle of Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, and playing Dov in the film, Roth had a major role as Sergeant Donny Donowitz in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009).

10. THE SUCCESS OF INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS LED TO THE RELEASE OF A DIRECTOR’S CUT OF CABIN FEVER.

Eli Roth and Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds' (2009)
Universal Pictures Home Entertertainment

Another reason why it pays to be friends with Quentin Tarantino: exposure! In a 2010 interview with Shock Till You Drop, about a then-brand-new Director’s Cut of Cabin Fever being released on Blu-ray, Roth shared that, “This is something I’ve been pushing for since the movie was first cut by the studio … Then after Basterds came out, suddenly my fan base grew and the people at Lionsgate were able to push it through ... It looks and sounds spectacular.”

11. THE PROPS LOOKED A LITTLE TOO REAL.

Robert Jones, who had been hired as a truck driver for the production, found out just how realistic the props looked when he decided to take one home as a souvenir. “So, I was riding through downtown Thomasville about 11 at night with this headless corpse sitting in the back seat,” Jones recalled. “Next thing I know the Thomasville Police Department is pulling me over.” An officer, weapon drawn, commanded Jones to get out of his car. “We all had a good laugh when they realized I wasn't some serial killer,” said Jones. “But man, that was scarier than anything in the movie.”

12. IT LAUNCHED A FULL-ON FRANCHISE.

In addition to spawning a sequel, Ti West’s Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009), there has also been a prequel—Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)—and a remake, released in 2016.

13. ROTH HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SEQUEL.

Though the original plan was for Roth to be at the helm of a Cabin Fever sequel, it didn’t shake out that way. “When we sold the original Cabin Fever, the first thing we discussed was that I had to do a treatment for a sequel as part of my deal,” Roth told Dread Central. “My idea for the sequel was a Song of the South horror movie filled with corpses and sex. The studio wasn’t on board with that so I wished them the best of luck and moved on.

“When I met [The House of the Devil director] Ti West, I really liked him and I liked his work. I told the producers to hire Ti and told him to go nuts and make the sequel completely his own vision. So he took it in a totally new direction.”

14. ROTH DID PRODUCE THE REMAKE.

In 2016, a remake of Cabin Fever—using Roth’s original script—was released to mixed reviews. But Roth was totally on board with the project. "They came to me exactly a year ago and said, ‘We want to remake Cabin Fever using your original script,’” Roth told Dread Central in 2015.

“You’ve got to realize that from an egotistical point of view, I wrote Cabin Fever when I was 22 years old. Right out of university. And for six years everyone told me, ‘This is an un-makeable piece of sh*t.’ So the fact that the same script would get made twice and that 20 years later, 20 years after I originally wrote it, it got sent around Hollywood and people were reading the same dialogue. I looked at it as like staging a play—as an experiment I just wanted to see how it would turn out. So I came on as one of the executive producers … I saw the cut and thought that what [director] Travis [Zariwny] did was so smart—he kept the original script, but he changed the deaths so all the kills are different … I’m happily surprised at how it’s turned out.”

10 Timeless Facts About The Land Before Time

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Five years before Jurassic Park roared into theaters, a gentler, more meditative dinosaur film endeared itself to audiences of all ages. Initially met with mixed reviews, The Land Before Time is now regarded as an animated classic. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the Steven Spielberg-produced film, which arrived in theaters 30 years ago.

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A DIALOGUE-FREE MOVIE.

Gabriel Damon and Candace Hutson in The Land Before Time (1988)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the mid-1980s, executive producer Steven Spielberg began toying with the idea of a Bambi-esque dinosaur film. “Basically,” he later said, “I wanted to do a soft picture … about five little dinosaurs and how they grow up and work together as a group.” Inspiration came from the “Rite of Spring” sequence from Disney’s Fantasia (1940)—a scene in which prehistoric beasts wordlessly go about their business. At first, Spielberg wanted his own dinosaur characters to follow suit and remain mum. Ultimately, however, it was feared that a non-verbal approach might bore or confuse the film’s intended audience. As such, the animals were given lines.

2. DIRECTOR DON BLUTH WAS AN EX-DISNEY EMPLOYEE.

Don Bluth grew up idolizing Disney’s work, and began working for the studio in 1955. Over the next two decades, he did various odd jobs until he was brought on as a full-time animator in 1971. Once on the inside, Bluth got to peek behind the magician’s curtain—and disliked what he found there. “I think [Walt Disney] would’ve seen that the pictures were losing their luster,” Bluth said. Frustrated by the studio’s cost-cutting measures, he resigned in 1979. Joining him were fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. Together the trio launched their own company, Sullivan Bluth Studios, and began working on The Land Before Time in 1986.

3. OVER 600 BACKGROUND PAINTINGS WERE MADE FOR THE FILM.

Most of these depicted beautiful but barren wastelands, which presented a real challenge for the creative team. As one studio press release put it, “The artists had to create a believable environment in which there was almost no foliage.” Whenever possible, Bluth’s illustrators emphasized vibrant colors. This kept their backdrops from looking too drab or monotonous—despite the desolate setting.

4. LITTLEFOOT’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS “THUNDERFOOT.”

This was changed when the filmmakers learned that there was a triceratops in a popular children’s book called Thunderfoot. Speaking of three-horned dinosaurs: Cera evolved from a pugnacious male character called Bambo.

5. THE FILMMAKERS HAD TO CUT ABOUT 10 MINUTES OF FOOTAGE.

“We compromised a lot with The Land Before Time,” Goldman admitted. Nowhere was this fact more apparent than on the cutting room floor. Spielberg and his fellow executive producer George Lucas deemed 19 individual scenes “too scary.” “We’ll have kids crying in the lobby, and angry parents,” Spielberg warned. “You don’t want that.”

6. “ROOTER” WAS INTRODUCED AT THE URGING OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS.

In Bambi, the title character’s mom dies off-screen. The same cannot be said for Littlefoot’s mother, whose slow demise goes on for several agonizing minutes. Naturally, there was some concern about how children would react to this. “A lot of research went into the mother dying sequence,” Pomeroy said. “Psychologists were approached and shown the film. They gave their professional opinions of how the sequence could be depicted.” Thus, Rooter was born.

One scene after Littlefoot’s mom passes, the wise reptile consoles him, saying “You’ll always miss her, but she’ll always be with you as long as you remember the things she taught you.” Sharp-eared fans might recognize Rooter’s voice as that of Pat Hingle, who also narrates the movie.

7. JAMES HORNER DID THE SOUNDTRACK.

The late, Oscar-winning composer behind Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009) put together a soaring score. Along with lyricist Will Jennings, he also penned the original song “If We Hold On Together,” which Diana Ross sings as the end credits roll.

8. THE ACTRESS BEHIND DUCKY PASSED AWAY BEFORE THE MOVIE’S RELEASE.

Judith Barsi’s career was off to a great start. By age 10, this daughter of Hungarian immigrants had already appeared in 70 commercials and voiced the leading lady in Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). For The Land Before Time, Barsi voiced the ever-optimistic Ducky, which was reportedly her favorite role. Then tragedy struck: In July of 1988, Barsi’s father József murdered both her and her mother before taking his own life.

9. IT HAD A RECORD-SETTING OPENING WEEKEND.

From the get-go, The Land Before Time had some stiff competition. Universal released it on November 18, 1988—the same day that Disney’s Oliver & Company hit theaters. Yet, for a solid month, Bluth gave Oliver a box office beating. The Land Before Time enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend that any animated film had ever seen, pulling in $7.5 million to Oliver & Company’s $4 million. Since then, of course, The Land Before Time has long been dethroned; today, Incredibles 2 (2018) holds this coveted distinction with a $182.7 million first-weekend showing.

10. THERE ONCE WAS TALK OF A LAND BEFORE TIME STAGE MUSICAL.

“The time has come for dinosaurs on Broadway,” the late theatrical producer Irving Welzer told The New York Times in 1997. Emboldened by the recent cinematic success of Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996), Welzer expressed an interest helping Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, and the rest of the gang make their Big Apple debut. Soon, however, the idea faded.

Billie Lourd Shares What (Very Little) She Can About Star Wars: Episode IX

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

​Nearly nothing is known about the final film in the latest Star Wars series, except that J.J. Abrams, who helmed The Force Awakens, will be returning as director, and many of the cast members from both Abrams's earlier effort and The Last Jedi will be reprising their roles. Even the late Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away on December 27, 2016, will be included in Episode IX, through unused footage from the previous two films.

Though all the stars of the upcoming film are sworn to secrecy about it, Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is spilling what she can. Lourd, who played the minor role of Lieutenant Connix in the last two films, teased what it was like being back on set.

"I gotta watch myself because the Star Wars PD is going to come get me, but it is incredible. I’ve read the script and I’ve been on set," Lourd told ​Entertainment Tonight. "I was on set for, like, three weeks back in September, and it is going to be magical. I can’t say much more, but I’m so excited about it and so grateful to be a part of it. Star Wars is my heart. I love it."

A lot of things are riding on Episode IX, especially considering how divided fans were over The Last Jedi. Though with Abrams back in the director's chair, it seems likely that the new film will be a return to form. The as-yet-untitled film hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

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