Cabin Fever: Movie Review

cabin fever - poster

This is a pretty much shot-for-shot remake of Cabin Fever (originally released in the not-so-distant past of 2002).  There has been a lot of negative discussion about the fact that this remake even exists, but I had two things in my favor going into this:
1. I’m not a particularly big fan of the original Cabin Fever.  It’s fine, but I never understood the love it gets.

2. I don’t really have an issue with remakes.

With that in mind, I waited until my child was asleep and I fired this up.  Oh, the excitement.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the plot, Cabin Fever follows 5 college students as they head out to a cabin for a weeklong vacation.  They have a run-in with a hobo who has been infected with a flesh-eating virus.  They set him on fire (as you do) and try to put the incident behind them, only to start showing signs of the disease themselves.
There is also a dog named Dr. Mambo who may be trying to eat them.

cabin fever - dr mambo

All caught up?

Two minutes in I knew I was in trouble.  While it wasn’t exactly shot-for-shot (they carved a lot of script out), it was pretty close.  However, the acting wasn’t as good, the music was louder than it had any reason to be and any humor that existed had been stripped away.  That left me watching a poorly written movie played deadly serious.  They said every line so earnestly it made Marky Mark’s character in The Happening blush.

"This cabin has meaning to me!"
“This cabin has meaning to me!”

I spent most of the movie trying to figure out who this was made for.  As I mentioned at the top, the original came out in 2002.  It is also held up in horror circles as a cult classic.  I know there are many people out there who fell in love with the horror genre due in no small part to that movie.
This movie wasn’t made for them.  Those people loved the original.  Since this added absolutely nothing, there was no reason for this movie to take the place of their beloved original.  Nor should it.
And that’s not even talking about Cabin Fever/Eli Roth superfans.  I am not a superfan of either, yet I’ve been a horror fan long enough that I have seen the original more than once.

Was this made for new fans?  I suppose you could make that case, but I don’t understand the point.  Yes, it has been 14 years since the original came out, but I feel like it has aged pretty well.  The effects still look good, which is one of the most important things to consider for an older movie.  I mentioned that they cut a lot out of the script, but I believe the only things they added in were a couple of lines about video games and the internet.  That tells me they didn’t feel a huge need to punch up the script to make it more modern.  The original is out there.  I feel like new horror fans would know Cabin Fever by reputation and would seek out the original.  Maybe they wouldn’t.  Maybe they’ll watch this one because it’s new, but this is just a worse version of the original.  If the filmmakers attempted to differentiate it, I would be able to see the point.  But they didn’t.  It’s a dim copy of the original.

cabin fever - doorway

It doesn’t use the set-up to reveal anything new about the genre: to poke fun at its foibles.  (With Cabin in the Woods just having come out in 2012, that would have been redundant anyway.)  They could have taken this as a chance to show how far horror has come since 2002.  This was released on VOD.  Why not take it a little further?  Throw some more carnage at us.  I’m not saying I necessarily wanted to see more carnage, but at least that would be something different.  You’re on VOD.  Go wild.

I wanted to see them either go the route of carnage or go the route of laughs.  Maybe both.  Instead, they made the exact same movie.  It did nothing new with the genre or the source material.

cabin fever - dr mambo & Marcy

But maybe they didn’t want to do that.  “I want to do a remake where I don’t add any humor but I also don’t actually show a woman getting eaten by a dog.”  That’s fine.  In that situation, the least you can do is change up the order or method of the kills.
By my count, only one death differed from the original in terms of timing.  It was pushed up just enough that it took me off guard.  The rest of the deaths pretty much took place using the exact same beats as the original.  There were some tweaks in the method in which they died, but not huge tweaks.  Because of this, I never felt uneasy.  I never felt like this movie was going to show me something I hadn’t already seen.  With the element of suspense gone, all that was left was to rely on the rest of the elements of the movie to keep me invested, but they weren’t good enough (or different enough) to do that.  I wanted a little danger.  A little uncertainty.
Deputy Winston was a female in this version.  So that’s something different, I guess.

cabin fever - deputy winston

Just because there was no danger or uncertainty doesn’t mean the music didn’t reach ear-shattering levels when a scene was building to a “shocking conclusion” that we already knew about.  I felt like I could hear the director screaming, “FEEL SOMETHING,” every time the music reached a fever pitch.

You won’t catch me saying good things about the Psycho remake, but you can at least see what they were going for.  They were trying to bring the story of Psycho into a new era, where people may have been inclined to say, “I’m not watching Psycho because it’s in black and white.”  (That being said, there is no reason to watch the remake of Psycho because the original is perfect in every way.)  If nothing else, that’s a somewhat valid reason to remake a movie.  Aside from, “We wanted to make another sequel but the last one did so horribly that we decided to reboot the original instead,” there is no reason to remake this movie using the exact same script.
As it turns out, that’s the exact reason this movie exists.  Cabin Fever: Patient Zero didn’t bring in much money when it was released on VOD, at which point the thoughts of another sequel went out the window and the idea of a remake surfaced, with the hopes of reviving the series. By using the same script, it meant they were able to get right into making the movie.  “None of this writing nonsense to bog us down,” I’m sure they said to each other. (One source reported it made $0 on VOD, but that can’t be right.)

cabin fever - bunny kid

I have spent a lot of time comparing it to the original, because it’s hard not to with a movie like this.  But let me take a moment to talk about this movie without referencing the original.
It was fine, I guess.  I didn’t like a single character, so I felt nothing when they died.  The make-up was pretty good.  After a bit of a slow start, the last 30 minutes was jam-packed with action.  Some of it was fun, but, again, the insanely loud music took me out of the moment more than once, and the acting wasn’t good enough to take any of it seriously.
The gore was good.  The deaths were entertaining, with at least one of them making me a little uneasy.
It’s not a good movie, but it’s not totally without merit.  If I stumbled across this late at night and knew nothing about it, I’m sure I would have been somewhat entertained.

This is a below-average movie that gets dinged pretty heavily for being an exact copy of a well-regarded horror movie.  I’m not offended that this exists.  I’m not mad or disappointed.  More than anything, I’m just confused.

Rating: 0/5

I will say that I didn’t miss Eli Roth’s stoner Grim.  I always hated that character.  Grim was much more subdued (and more than a little threatening) in this version, and I kind of liked that.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

Cabin Fever Patient Zero Poster

I was not excited about Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. Why the hell would I be? The franchise, such as it is, is in shambles. Matter of fact, calling it a franchise is like calling Twilight a vampire movie.

Eli Roth’s original Cabin Fever is an explosive juggernaut of gore, humor, titties, and teenagers making fabulously bad decisions. You know…all the things that make an unserious horror movie seriously fantastic. And Roth did it up right. It’s a magnificent flick that you can watch repeatedly and have a great time. Any genre fan that doesn’t like Cabin Fever is a goddamn communist trying to sodomize your freedom, eat your pets, and abolish your rights of inheritance.

But then came Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, which made Paranormal Activity look like The Exorcist, and Paranormal Activity was as painful as diarrhea with teeth. Don’t watch Cabin Fever 2. Or Paranormal Activity.

And now Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is the prequel none of us have been waiting for. It was supposed to have been filmed back-to-back with the fourth installment, Cabin Fever: Outbreak. That one got scrapped because now the original film is being remade with the same script and different actors because fuck everything. Eli Roth isn’t directing – since he’s already done that exact thing with this exact movie – but he is the executive producer. No one has been able to explain to me why this is happening.

Anyway, Patient Zero. It actually started off sort of promising. Not the sort of promising where you get your hopes up. More the type where you feel you might not have to dump Jagermeister in the DVD tray to get that taste out of its mouth. There was Sean Astin, whom I always enjoy in an I-fondly-recall-The-Goonies kind of way. He’s the titular patient being held captive by “scientists.” One of them is an extremely attractive young lady in a short skirt, high heels, and a low cut top. She’s a scientist because she’s also wearing a lab coat. There’s some witty dialogue constructed mostly of sexual innuendo, which is always a plus. The main characters are sailing their buddy to a tropical island for bachelor festivities. Said island is naturally the one where Astin is being studied as a possible cure to the flesh-eating fun that will erupt in the first Cabin Fever. So…spoiler, I guess? They don’t cure it? Whatever.

Overall, this thing just drags along pointlessly. There isn’t much new stuff here, although there are a couple moments of sincere awesomeness, like an oral sex scene that ends in high-pressure vomiting. I was ecstatic about that situation. Also, a fist fight between two rapidly decaying chicks? Yes, please. Let’s get sloppy.

Not worth it in the long run, though. The story isn’t really a story and, while that was forgivable in the original, we’ve moved on. The second sequel can’t rely on what the original film did. Despite The Hangover people deciding to make the same movie three times in a row, it’s not a good formula.

Other than Astin, the cast is a forgettable bunch of hot nobodies. Ryan Donowho is one of them. His entire bio on IMDb reads “Ryan is famous in the streets and subways of Manhattan as a bucket/drum player. His nickname is Focus.” Sweet. Another, Jillian Murray, starred in the gems Wild Things: Foursome, and Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown. So she’s a veteran of movies that have colons in the title.

Obviously I’m a fan of horror films that are so bad they’re good, as well as those that are traditionally good. This one is neither. It’s right in the middle which is the worst place to be. If you were planning to see it just so you’d be able to keep up with the direct-to-DVD fourth installment, don’t worry about it. Actually, if you were planning to see it at all, just don’t.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero Review


Starring Sean Astin, Currie Graham and Ryan Donowho
Directed By Kaare Andrews

Following in the shoes of Ti West and Eli Roth has to be a daunting task. Ti West – the man responsible for some of the best horror films of the last 10 years – made a bad Cabin Fever movie, so how could Kaare Andrews make this one succeed? Trying to up the ante in films that were already batshit crazy doesn’t seem possible, so what do you do? Take the familiar (a group of friends on a weekend getaway), add in something new (a bearded Sean Astin being held against his own will by creepy scientists), hire Vincent Gustani to handle the makeup effects and throw as much crazy at the screen as you can. The only question is, does it work? The short review…. yes. This movie absolutely works and is not only a worthy sequel to Cabin Fever, it washes away the sour taste left by Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.

Patient Zero follows two stories at the same time. The first character we are introduced to is Porter (Sean Astin), a man being held against his will by what appears to be less than ethical scientists. Porter is immune to the flesh eating disease that we’ve seen in the last two films and might hold the key to a cure. The second story we follow introduces us to a group of young people having a bachelor party on a secluded island; the group consists of two brothers, their friend and one of the brother’s girlfriend’s. Yup, just let it go. Don’t spend too much time thinking about why three guys and one of their girlfriends would have a bachelor party on a secluded island. It’s only a matter of time before these two groups of people will meet and all hell will inevitably break loose.

The opening shot of the film is a hauntingly beautiful slow motion shot that sets an impressive tone for the film to live up to. If you are aware of the prior Cabin Fevers, this shot lets you know that you are in the hands of a capable filmmaker who will be putting his own stamp on this familiar material. I loved Kaare Andrews’ 2010 film Altitude so I knew he could make a good movie, but I still went into this one with some degree of trepidation. With all that being said, this film is in no way a film for everyone. This is a film for the Fangoria crowd. This is an old school splatter fest, made by a gifted filmmaker. This film isn’t schlocky cheap feeling. Even though I’m sure this film was made on a micro-budget, it feels big and polished. Most of the over-the-top gore fests of the late 70’s and 80’s felt amateurish and fairly juvenile, and, while this film is every bit as gory as any of those films, it has style and solid performances all around.

If you liked High Tension or Wolf Creek give this a look. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is available on VOD