Sound mixer John Neff survived the real flesh-eating bacterium, which he contracted in a hospital during minor surgery. It took 13 days of non-stop intensive care medical attention to save his life. Neff maintains the make-up in the film is 100% accurate.
While filming a particularly bloody scene, Rider Strong decided to go for a walk in the woods between setups. Covered head to toe in blood, he happened upon a group of 35 schoolgirls, who were on a field trip. The girls screamed at the sight of this blood-drenched hiker, and then screamed even louder when they realized the hiker was the star of Boy Meets World (1993). The girls chased Rider through the woods. Strong eventually made it back to the film crew, and vowed never to wander off between scenes again.
Crew member Robert Jones took home the decapitated body prop once the film wrapped, and was pulled over while driving home by police officers who saw the corpse and thought he was a serial killer. The police held Jones at gunpoint until he was able to convince them the lifelike body was only a prop.
Director Eli Roth originally got the idea for this movie while working in Iceland on a horse farm. He got such a bad skin infection from the rotting hay in the barn that his face broke out in sores, bled and peeled off when he shaved.
During her sex scene with Rider Strong, Eli Roth wanted Cerina Vincent to be completely naked. But Vincent, who had previously played a student who never wore clothes in Not Another Teen Movie (2001), was concerned that over-exposing herself would lead to her being typecast as a 'nude scene chick', and refused to bare her rear in Cabin Fever. The standoff between the director and actress became so intense that Vincent informed Roth that if he truly wanted a naked ass in the scene, he would have to get another actress to play the role of Marcy. Eventually the two hammered out a compromise - Vincent would show one inch of her ass on film, no more, no less. When the scene was set to be filmed, Roth bought along a ruler and literally measured one inch of Vincent's butt crack. Bedsheets were then taped to Vincent's ass at the designated level before the sex scene was shot. Ironically, Vincent later volunteered to bare her breasts in a scene that didn't call for them. During the bathroom scene where she discovers the rashes on her back, the script had her wearing a robe, which she lowered when she turned her back to the mirror. But Vincent thought this scenario was too unrealistic and volunteered to do it topless.
This movie had the lowest budget of any Lion's Gate Film released in 2003, ($1.5 million) and was their highest grossing film of 2003 ($22 million box office.) It was also the most profitable horror film released in 2003.
The original killer dog "Jake" was hired without a rehearsal and sight unseen because Eli Roth loved the idea of using the dog in the Patrick Swayze movie Black Dog (1998) and there by being only "two degrees from Swayze". The problem was the dog was by then 4 years older, arthritic, and tired. After a full day of shooting, and if all the few second bits were spliced expertly together, they only had about a minute or so of usage footage. All dog scenes had to be re-shot with a new dog. With no time or money to find a replacement, the producers cast a real police attack dog that was so vicious and unpredictable no actors could appear with it on camera. The crew would hide behind trucks during its scenes, and cameras were operated by remote control.
As the film progresses the light levels become increasingly darker. This is partially by design and partially due to circumstance. In some scenes the film's color correction and underexposure is deliberately darkened. But when Joey Kern was injured on-set it caused many on-the-fly changes to the shooting schedule. As a result, many of the scenes that take place inside the cabin on the last day, such as Cerina Vincent's leg-shaving and sex scenes with Rider Strong were actually filmed in the middle of the night. The light from the windows is all artificial, which makes it dimmer than genuine sunlight and hence makes the scene darker.
Out of 347 films shown at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival, Cabin Fever (2002) was screened last, and became the highest selling movie at the festival. Nearly all of the nine studios who engaged in a bidding war had passed on the movie at the script stage (the exception being the eventual winner, Lion's Gate, which was not in existence when the script was first written).
Director of Photography Scott Kevan is visible in the rearview mirror in the truck when the kids are driving to the cabin. Director Eli Roth noticed this in the editing room, and kept it in so Scott would be in the movie because he has appeared in all his movies that he had shot.
The "pancakes" scene was made up during filming after the director saw Matthew Helms practicing tae kwon do during a break. He discovered that Helms was a real-life black belt, so he decided to add the scene to give a chance for Helms to show what he could do.
Lions Gate Films bought the movie for an undisclosed sum in the "high seven figures", with an eight-figure commitment to prints and advertising. It's the most money Lions Gate has ever spent acquiring a motion picture.
The audition scene the producers chose for actresses who wanted to play Marcy was her notorious "It's like being on a plane..." scene, in which Marcy compares her dire situation to being on a plane doomed to crash. This was an unfortunate choice, on the part of the producers, as was the scheduled date for the auditions; September 11, 2001. The producers made efforts to call off the auditions, but due to the general chaos gripping the US that day, they found it impossible to contact many of the actresses before their scheduled audition times. Consequently, the auditions went ahead as planned. Cerina Vincent's portrayal of this scene won her the role of Marcy.
The bed-clothing on the bed Karen falls ill on is mostly white and covered with fir tree stencils. White is a color associated with medical treatment and fir trees are culturally know for the antiseptic properties of their oil. The bed-clothing on the bed Marcy has sex with two different men on has a red, floral design. The color red is often representative of passion and flowers are symbols for sex/sexuality.
The first symptom of Marcy's illness that the movie draws attention to are the red hand-shaped marks on her back, where Paul grabbed her when they were having sex. However, just prior to this discovery, in the scene where Bert and Jeff abandon the others, a similar lesion can be seen on Marcy's left wrist, just below her watch - an early hint for the observant that indicates her sickness.
Randy Pearlstein, who receives a co-writing credit, was roommates with Eli Roth in film school. Roth had already written a rough draft of the script and enlisted Pearlstein's help in fleshing out the script into feature length. Pearlstein was not present during the filming and did no further rewrites of the script.
Perhaps the most iconic scene from this movie is the "Pancakes" scene, where Dennis jumps around performing karate moves while screaming "PANCAKES!", for no reason. If you look closely (you probably need to pause the movie) during the later scene where Paul sees the giant rabbit in the hospital, you can see that the rabbit is offering Dennis some pancakes.
Sex and death are associated with each other numerous times in this film. The first sex scene between Jeff and Marcy is inter-spliced with shots of Bert shooting squirrels. The second sex scene between Marcy and Paul is inter-spliced with a shot of seriously ill Karen decomposing. And the scenes where Paul lays dying of the disease in a hospital bed are inter-spliced with scenes of him kissing his bikini-clad girlfriend. Also, Marcy gives a notorious speech about how the only thing a dying person would want to do is have one last screw. It is implied that by not using a condom while they had sex, Marcy passed the deadly illness to Paul. Also, of the four main cast members who got the disease, Karen was revealed to be ill when Paul was touching her in a sexual manner, Marcy's first telltale wounds came from marks Paul made when he squeezed her back hard while they had sex, and Bert and Paul first discovered lesions near their groins.