Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)
★ / ★★★★
What’s supposed to be a fun bachelor’s party for Marcus (Mitch Ryan) turns grim when his brother (Brando Eaton) and childhood friend (Jillian Murray) go snorkeling in the virus-infected shores of a remote island that happens to contain a secret research facility. Inside the facility, a man named Porter (Sean Astin) is being held against his will. He is believed to be immune from a new strain of flesh-eating virus which means his blood can lead to a vaccine and prevent a pandemic.
Based on the screenplay by Jake Wase Wall and directed by Kaare Andrews, “Cabin Fever: Patient Zero” is supposed to be a prequel to the first entry in the series and yet it does not provide much information about the virus itself. Instead, it recycles information that we already know, from how it is spread to the initial symptoms upon exposure. It offers no new ideas and so it is a bore to sit through despite the impressively yucky, gory special effects and makeup.
Its ambition only goes as far as telling two stories that must intersect eventually. Neither of them work. Marcus getting married and his friends being not-so-happy that his spouse is someone rich is so laughably bad, I thought at first that the picture is going to traverse the route of spoofing the series—which would have been interesting because Eli Roth’s original and Ti West’s “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” are already laced with humor. Instead, there is barely any genuine comedic touches in the dialogue—most of the attempts at humor are generalizations about stupid things early twenty-somethings might say. I found it quite insulting, really.
Equally insulting is its portrayal of the scientists (Currie Graham, Lydia Hearst, Solly Duran) who are supposed to be figuring out how to make a vaccine against the disease. We are forced to sit through interminable scenes where the scientists sit around and argue—essentially doing nothing to progress the plot. Never once did I believe that they are intelligent let alone people who really know what they are doing.
The original film is enjoyable to watch because most of the time the events are unfolding either in daylight or a well-lit cabin. Here, the second half—where the majority of its money shots are revealed—takes place at night, inside a poorly-lit building, or underground that we are not given much time to appreciate the rashes, blisters, and raw tissues. These elements need to be front and center, preferably under a magnifying glass. Audiences who love horror movies about disease outbreaks are looking for the details. If we are not given exactly that, then what is the point?
The challenge with all film series is that each installment must offer something fresh or something so memorable that its existence is ultimately justified. “Cabin Fever: Patient Zero” offers no suspense, horror, and thrill. On top of that, it gives us no further understanding of the virus. Instead, it gives us a string of clichés, an egregious script, and eye strain—for having to squint so hard in order to appreciate the gnarly wounds.