In 2002 Eli Roth gave horror fans something to stand up and cheer about. Instead of the same tired slashers killing the same tired twenty-somethings in the same tired settings, Roth gave us a new kind of killer: The flesh-eating disease. Still confusing to me today the horror community was split down the middle about CABIN FEVER. I loved it and appreciated the gore, the practical f/x, and the return to the fun, violent horror movie. On a budget of $1.5mil, CABIN FEVER would go on to gross over $21mil and would help usher in a new revival of genre flicks. A sequel, CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER, was made seven years later in 2009, and now twelve years after the original a second sequel has been released. CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO returns to the tone and atmosphere of the original film while at the same time setting up future films in the series.
CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO is directed by Kaare Andrews, who directed the dreadful ALTITUDE, and is written by Jake Wade Wall, who penned the remakes of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and THE HITCHER as well as the cinematic abortion, AMUSEMENT. So yeah, I wasn’t expecting too much from CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO. Thankfully these two pulled their s**t together enough to deliver a fun and at times scary film. The set up is interesting; we have two different story lines, each a movie unto itself. The two plots eventually converge and give us a solid final act. Andrews does a nice job at controlling these two seemingly different plots and never loses his focus on the film as a whole. The first story line focuses on Porter (Sean Astin), who we see during the opening credit sequence being forcibly removed from a cabin by some guys in hazmat suits. Porter is wisked away to a research facility being run by Dr. Edwards (Currie Graham) on a remote island. This facility has one task … to find a cure for the flesh-eating disease that is quickly becoming a pandemic. Porter is carrying the disease (“patient zero”) but isn’t infected or showing any signs of infection. Porter isn’t happy about being locked up, poked, prodded, and tested on every day, but he could be the cure to the pandemic or he could usher in the end of the world.
The other story line is a little more cheerful. Marcus (Mitch Ryan) is getting married and his best friend Dobbs (Ryan Donowho), his brother Josh (Brando Eaton), and Josh’s girlfriend and long time friend of Marcus’, Penny (Jillian Murray) decide to throw him a kick ass bachelor party. They charter a boat to take them out to drink too much beer, smoke too much pot, and reminisce about the good old days before his big day. Their destination? A deserted island. I’ll give you one guess which deserted island they end up on!! Josh and Penny go snorkeling once they get to the island but instead of an underwater world alive with fish and crustaceans, all they find are pieces of dead fish and what looks like human body parts. They scramble to get out of the water but Penny almost immediately starts showing signs of infection. We get a few gross out moments as well as a decent amount of suspense as we wonder who will be infected next.
Once the infection has Penny firmly in it’s grasp, the guys try and call the mainland to call the ship back to get them off the island. They have no luck of course and the infection spreads quickly. Marcus and Dobbs search the island looking for any signs of life and stumble upon the bunker of the facility (although they have no idea it’s a research facility). Dr. Edwards responds to one of their distress calls and tells them to come down into the facility. By now it’s apparent that Dr. Edwards has ulterior motives and is more than a little bat-s**t cray-cray. In the meantime, Porter has devised an escape plan to get him out of the facility. All these elements converge to make a pretty satisfying ending.
On the plus side, CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO is pretty fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and there’s a nice balance between the horror and comedy elements. It also has some superbly well-done gore that will please fans. Sure there could’ve been more, but what we get is pretty damn disgusting and perfectly executed. Josh and Penny’s sex act becomes the stuff of pure nightmares complete with lots of bodily fluids being spewed as well as some other surprises.
But this is far from a perfect film. The script definitely has a lot of problems. In the beginning of the film, Dr. Edwards is telling Porter how serious this disease has gotten and that it’s becoming a pandemic. Yet our partying twenty-somethings are completely oblivious to it. No one seems to know about the disease and there doesn’t seem to be any news stories about it. We heard more about three cases of ebola in Dallas than these guys heard about a world-wide pandemic!! There’s also some problems with various character’s motives. No spoilers here but I was left scratching my head over the turn that Sean Astin’s character takes at the end of the movie. I get that he was pissed off about being held in the facility against his will and being experimented on. Got it. I also get that he wanted to know if his wife was still alive. But what he does at the end is simply monstrous!! There’s a few other secondary players who’s character arc’s just doesn’t make sense.
The film also becomes very dark towards the end as the guys make their way into the research facility. I don’t mean “dark” as in the film having a “dark mood or atmosphere.” I mean that tt was dark in that I had trouble seeing what the hell was going on!!
But putting the scripting problems and lighting issues aside, there’s fun to be had with this film. The acting is solid from the entire cast and I do like the hinted at apocalyptic ending. The filmmakers definitely set the stage for another follow up and I hope they make it. But news recently dropped about Armory Films producing a remake of the original CABIN FEVER. The remake, in fact, is already in production!! How did it go into production so quickly you might wonder? It’s using the exact same script as the original 2002 movie. No really … the exact same script, word-for-word. So I can’t see a sequel to CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO being green-lit too soon. But all this nonsense aside, if you’re a fan of the original CABIN FEVER then you’ll enjoy CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO. Good performances, good gore, and an interesting ending make this one pretty fun. Check it out.
Director: Kaare Andrews
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 7.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer