By: Addison Wylie
Eli Roth exploded onto the scene with Cabin Fever, a subversive backwoods horror that took a flesh-eating disease and made it as terrifying as any nightmarish creature. It was a bizarre film with nasty visuals and a peculiar sense of humour, but everything about it was addictive.
I haven’t seen Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. I just haven’t got around to it. Maybe some day, but director Ti West’s distain towards his experience on the yucky flick hasn’t filled me with much hope.
So, watching Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is kind of like playing “broken telephone” with a film franchise. At first, audiences had a memorably provocative film that wasn’t afraid to get sticky. Now, we have a film that’s below average and instantly forgettable. Somewhere, a call was dropped.
The best thing I can say about Patient Zero is that it still delivers on disgusting effects. Director Kaare Andrews (who contributed to the horror analogy The ABCs of Death) has made it his goal to keep the queasiness going with loose jaws, puss and blood, and freakish kills. He shows that he’s a filmmaker who cares a lot about practical make-up and understands its the prime route for gore hound satisfaction.
I was even impressed by Sean Astin’s turn as grief-stricken Porter (aka: Patient Zero). The character is used as a specimen for scientists to collect results on a brewing virus. Astin, who is an incredibly talented performer, doesn’t portray himself as an actor who’s better than the shabby splatter film he’s in. He knows perfectly well the movie he’s involved in, but still plays the role with every bit of strength Andrews needs. That also says a lot about Andrews’ ability to direct top tier talent.
Other than Astin’s proficiency and some defined wounds, there’s not much else deserving of merit in Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. The quality of the film is the equivalent to any straight-to-DVD schlock you used to be able to grab from the “horror” section at a mom and pop video store (bare with me, Netflix generation). However, Patient Zero isn’t a nostalgic throwback to any of those guilty pleasures. It wants to stand on its own which makes it all the more awkward.
It’s guaranteed you’ll be either groaning at the sight of an ill-edited action sequence or the rote script and character clichés. The latter of which feels stagnantly inspired by the Hangover gang.
Kaare Andrews’ film is the first prequel in the Cabin Fever series. It’s too bad this opportunity for a savage backstory is more of a drab stab.