Manifesto by: heatandchills
Spoilers: Some revelation about character fates (i.e. who survives, who dies), as well as relationship details.
If I had to summon up Paul and Marcy’s relationship in one word, it would be “passion”. But even taking that one word summary and making it bold and underlined feels like a massive understatement. When these two get together the steaminess is intense, raw and striking.
I hesitate to call what Paul and Marcy have a "relationship", because their time together is regrettably brief in all the canon material. But their relationshipis purely a physical one. If your catnip is a story about a romantic declaration of love, or the prelude to a fairytale wedding, then Paul & Marcy probably won’t appeal to you. They reflect the more decadent side of our humanity. We are all of us at times artists, poets, romantics; but what you get from Paul & Marcy is the side of us that is animal, wild and impulsive. Most importantly, these two completely embrace and enjoy this sexual connection simply for what it is.
They are certainly not the first couple in media to engage in a little no-strings-attached nookie. But there are a couple things about Paul and Marcy that really make them stand out from the pack.
The first would have to be the purity of their relationship. There is no pretence, whatsoever, in what they do; no romantic undertone to the scene or sophisticated backstory to their pairing that culminates in them making love. They are simply a nubile young woman and a virile young man doing what young adults do, unencumbered by any subtext. A perfect example of this is how their relationship began. Marcy basically asks Paul “So, you wanna do it?” right in the middle of a serious conversation. There was no lead-up to this. Their decision to sleep together was literally a spur-of-the-moment choice.
Making the instant leap from sort-of friends to lovers meant the only thing they had to go on were their raging hormones. So they opened up the valves and let those hormones fuel a veritable inferno between them. Which brings me to the second thing that makes Paul & Marcy’s relationship stand out:
The energy. To liken their relationship to an explosion would be an apt metaphor: it’s a singular, brief and spectacular release of an immense amount of pent-up energy. Paul and especially Marcy give everything they’ve got to their one moment together. Perhaps it’s shared knowledge that their sexual encounter will be a one-time-deal, so they both resolve to get everything they want from the other during that one opportunity (”Carpe Diem,” and all that.) Paul is a little slow getting in to the flow of the situation, seemingly in shock for a little while by how quickly he’s found himself in bed with this knock-out bombshell. But Marcy lets her inner animal loose at the word “go!”
She also remains decisively dominant throughout the encounter. This, too, makes their relationship stand out amongst the many other physical relationships in mainstream cinema: it’s not often that the woman dominates the man in the bedroom. On the rare occasions when she does, most of the time her creators also take her to the extreme of being a leather-clad dominatrix, leaving a wide blind spot between ”conventional” and ”super-kinky” where strong women with more mainstream appetites are never shown. Marcy and Paul’s relationship hits a sweet spot, where the familiar and engaging lovemaking dynamic is tweaked with a refreshing reversal of gender roles.
As lovers, Paul and Marcy have magnificent chemistry, which serves as a stark contrast to their chemistry in every other regard. You can tell that they wouldn’t last 5 minutes as a conventional couple; they have absolutely nothing in common and they are each, in their own way, stubborn to the point that you know they’d be forever butting heads if they tried to make it work. But when they take the unlikely shortcut of throwing everything else aside and just have sex, they are on to a really good thing and turn out to be an extremely well-matched pair.
While Marcy and Paul’s time together is quite a straightforward narrative, the story that surrounds, triggers and ends their relationship is fairly complex.
Both Paul and Marcy are college students vacationing in a remote cabin in the woods with their friends, Jeff, Karen and Bert.
Marcy and Jeff are in a relationship and can hardly keep their hands off one another.
Paul has known Karen since childhood and has secretly loved her from afar for almost as long. A sweet, shy guy, he’s never plucked up the courage to make a move on her, but he hopes to kindle a romance between them during their week together in the serene woods.
Then all hell breaks loose. A vagrant with a flesh-eating disease appears out of the woods and terrorizes the friends one night. Long story short, Karen becomes infected with his disease and within 24 hours, she is bedridden and seemingly at death’s door.
Jeff is progressively shown to be a man with no backbone. His only priority is to spare himself from the infection and his cowardice and selfishness drives a wedge further and further between himself and Marcy. Eventually, they angrily break up when Jeff berates Marcy for what he considers to be her stupidity in tending to Karen, thereby exposing herself to the disease. Jeff abandons Marcy and the others and flees into the woods, believing the cabin to be too contaminated. Bert also flees, ostensibly to return to civilization and summon help for Karen.
With Karen virtually comatose, Paul and Marcy are effectively alone, with the prospect that they themselves may soon succumb to the illness weighing heavily upon their minds. As Marcy laments their scary situation and Paul attempts to reassure her, the conversation takes the unlikely turn towards the suggestion of them having sex. After all, they might die soon anyway, so why not?
And so they do.
I mentioned previously how Paul & Marcy’s physical relationship is unencumbered by any of the sophisticated subtext that usually lurks behind (or defines) such pairings. I think that sense of unencumberance - or perhaps better described as liberation - is yet another major reason why I find Paul and Marcy such an engaging couple. They are a delicious metaphor for freedom, happiness and safety for the downtrodden.
They had more grief and fear than anyone should have to bear; they were faced with a bleak future that they were helpless to change. Yet with absurd ease, they managed to shed all their worldly concerns (along with their clothes) and have a really good time together. All the ugliness around them completely vanished as they lost themselves in the excitement of having sex. It’s an escape not just from their point of view, but also from the viewer’s. It is quite jarring and shocking when this bleak tale about sickness and death suddenly becomes a display of two fit young adults seizing life with an act of robust passion. The scene doesn’t feel like it belongs with everything that preceded it and it ultimately stands out as an oasis of guilty pleasure in what is generally a dark movie.
Of course, casting aside their troubles doesn’t amount to a permanent reprieve for either of them. Once nature has taken its course, the full weight of the world comes crashing down upon them once more. They are still caught up in a frightening crisis and they are now also uncomfortably confused by the radical change in their relationship. Paul and Marcy drift apart (and soon after, die).
Their relationship is certainly not meant to be an Aesop about how people ought to deal with crises. But I think we can all relate to that sense of the weight of the world being too much for us sometimes; that sense of helplessness in the face of overwhelming problems. Consequently, I suspect that there’s a universal appeal to the idea of liberating one’s self in those stressful moments and running off to a place of sheer, decadent pleasure, where troubles don’t exist and every sensation evokes bliss. Paul and Marcy are the very personification of that utopian dream. The briefness of their relationship grounds them in reality, but the fact that they are somewhat successful in bringing each other a measure of release still makes them very seductive.
I finished the movie wanting more of what I saw between them. That powerful chemistry between them burns out all too quickly and the movie doesn’t give them the chance to reignite it. I believe that they are fertile ground for the imagination of a fanficcer interested in celebrating the raw passion that can exist between a man and a woman when they just cut the crap and go for it. I’ve found myself tweaking the story in my mind, in all kinds of ways, to bring Paul and Marcy back into each other’s paths. I started writing my own steamy fanfic about them that utilizes only a fraction of my imaginings.
A real game-changer has come along recently with the release of a virtually shot-for-shot remake of the original Cabin Fever.
Paul and Marcy still get together in more or less the same circumstances. But the tone of their relationship is much different. The passion between them still sets the scene on fire. But there is now also a real sense of emotional intimacy between them. Unlike the originals, you almost feel like these new ones could go on to be relationship material. As much as I love the stark contrast between their personal incompatibility and their sizzling chemistry as lovers in the original, I’m going to grudgingly say that I think I prefer this new personal dynamic that lends itself better to an ongoing relationship.
However, one thing that disappoints me about the remake’s rendition of Paul and Marcy is that it’s taken Marcy’s dominance out of the equation. Instead, it depicts a balance of power between them during their lovemaking, with Paul coming off as slightly more dominant. For one thing, Paul is like a good foot taller than Marcy now (she is tiny!), whereas before they were more or less the same height.
As I said before, Marcy’s role as the driving force in the original pairing made them stand out from the crowd and was one of their most fascinating features. Her dominance added a sense of thrilling chaos to the relationship. It was like her eagerness to have sex was the unstoppable tsunami wave, and Paul was the helpless innocent bystander who had gotten caught up in it. There was a moment, in the midst of their activity, when he brought up the subject of condoms. Marcy easily established that they would not be pausing to make the sex safer. It was a fleeting exchange that not only showed Marcy was the dominant partner by far, but also showed that Marcy was, in turn, caught up in forces far more powerful than rationality and common sense.
In this regard, the remake is far blander. There is no power dynamic between Paul and Marcy which makes their whole relationship much smoother; I don’t mean that as a compliment. Removing the power struggle between the man and woman also removes the viewer’s window in to the internal inhibitions that are conquered by their passion. Perhaps the new Paul and Marcy’s passion is an unstoppable force, just like that of their original incarnations. But if it has no obstacles to break through, how would we know?
Nevertheless, the remake’s version of Paul and Marcy is most certainly a fresh and thought-provoking variation on the story. It’s very much the same as the original in many ways, but very different in many others. It has honestly made me rethink every idea I’ve ever had about them and I’ve come to think that perhaps the best telling of Paul and Marcy’s relationship has yet to be told, and will incorporate elements from both official depictions of it.