John’s Horror Corner: Cabin Fever (2016), an enjoyable play-by-play remake of Eli Roth’s original.
MY CALL: A perfectly watchable remake that replays the 2002 screenplay and brings nothing new to the table. Basically you’re rewatching an old favorite with a different cast and director. MOVIES LIKE Cabin Fever: Cabin Fever (2002), Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009), Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014) and The Ruins (2008). But true lovers of hilariously gory overkill should also hit Evil Dead (2013), The Cabin in the Woods (2012), Final Destination 5 (2011), Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010), Drag Me to Hell (2009), and of course Evil Dead 2 (1987) and The Evil Dead (1981).
Director Travis Zariwny (Scavengers, Intruder) had never made a feature length horror film before trying to fill some very big shoes by doing a remake of Eli Roth’s 2002 flesh-eating bacteria/virus movie that already has two sequels! But he seems to be off to one Hell of a great start when he opens with gorgeous shots of the forest and the corpse of a man’s dog—with the cutest name ever (and a throwback to the original): Pancakes—spraying blood into his owners face for no good reason other than making me “squee” with glee.
Now that may sound pretty slapstick-nuts, but this is written by Randy Pearlstein (Cabin Fever, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever) who acted in Ugly Americans and Chapelle’s Show. So the sick sense of humor to this movie should come as an expected perk. And can I just say I loved this seemingly random opening scene with Pancakes’ gore-ravaged cadaver red-misting his owner in the face!
Karen (Gage Golightly; Exeter, Teen Wolf), Jeff (Matthew Daddario; Shadow Hunters: The Mortal Instruments), Bert (Dustin Ingram; True Blood, Paranormal Activity 3), Marcy (Nadine Crocker; Deadgirl) and Paul (Samuel Davis; From Dusk til Dawn: the series, Machete Kills) are college students heading out to a cabin in the woods. They stop at basically the same gas station as in the original Cabin Fever (2002), someone gets randomly bitten by the same weird kid, they meet the same edgy locals who serve as their troped up harbingers, and it’s introduced almost immediately that no one has any cell service in their cabin.
From spastic kids to waterfront flirting, this feels a lot like the original.
The college kids are pretty clichéd. They get right into the angst, the flirting and the sex. But they barely have time to get comfortable before Pancakes’ now horrendously infected owner comes begging for help…naturally startled by his flesh-eaten state of decay and his projectile blood vomit, they light him on fire! Yup. That’s what I do when someone in ill health comes begging for help: light him up.
“Hey, who’s out there?”
“Ewww. It’s a totally gross dying guy! Don’t let him in!”
“He tried to get in! Quick, spray him with lighter fluid!”
“Totally an accident, bro.”
Following suit with the original, some intimacy reveals some infectious gore in naughty spots, they quarantine the first infected girl in the boat shed like an animal, a sex scene re-enacts the back clawmarks scene that was so memorable in 2002, and then they all start turning on each other paranoid of who else might be infected. Suffice to say, there is really nothing inventive about this remake. It’s an Eli Roth color-by-numbers…scene by scene. Although I was quite partial to the leg-shaving scene; loved it then, love it now. Not to mention some quality (but not overly abundant) nudity complete with a gore-slathered infected naked girl.
About an hour in I felt like this wasn’t as gory as its predecessors. But it accelerates accordingly in the third act to please gorehounds. And speaking of hounds, I love the make-up they did on the infected dog. What a gory mess. But that dog had nothing on the brutal mercy kill scene.
Was this original? Not even in the slightest—not even for a remake. Unlike Carrie (2013) or Evil Dead (2013), this remake brought nothing new to the table…kind of like Poltergeist (2015) except without the horrible suck factor. This remake is something of a pretty fun ride. It drags at times in the middle (as we re-live the same old 2002 exposition) and feels inferior to the original and its sequels. But I don’t regret watching it a bit—it was still fun, funny and gorily satisfying.
Total SIDEBAR: So at the start of the movie Bert buys “the beer” for their weekend and only walks out with two six-packs for five people. Then they have a night of drinking–coming out to 2.4 beers/person. Later when everything has gone to Hell, one dude grabs two six-packs and leaves the cabin to isolate himself… they were the same two six packs! So what were they drinking before that???