Cabin Fever (2016)
★ / ★★★★
It couldn’t even get the gross-out leg shaving scene right.
Nearly a scene-by-scene recreation of Eli Roth’s horror-comedy of the same name, Travis Zariwny’s “Cabin Fever” is pointless, worthless, and a colossal waste of time. It exhibits no understanding of why the original works and, for some, like myself, why it holds up upon repeated viewings. One of the main reasons is the 2002 picture being rough around the edges. Clearly made with a limited budget, Roth, an ambitious writer-director at the time, is able to turn rather cheap-looking sets into a believable setting that is a cabin in the middle of the woods where flesh-eating bacteria has been working its way up the food chain.
Here, however, notice how the environment looks so sanitized, from the well-decorated interiors of the cabin to the freshly mowed lawns of the picture-perfect surrounding area. It does not fit the dark and foreboding mood of the film that just so happens to have comic moments due to the sheer ignorance or stupidity of the characters. Yes, the characters are meant to be one-dimensional and daft, but Randy Pearlstein’s script, for some reason, is not at all willing to skewer them. Instead, it wants us to like the characters without providing good reasons why we should care for them in the first place. The five friends are as boring as tap water (Gage Golightly, Matthew Doddario, Samuel Davis, Nadine Crocker, Dustin Ingram).
Its second failure is the lack of convincing gore. Let us focus on the famous leg-shaving scene, perhaps the most disgusting—and disturbing—moment in the original. Take note of how the scene in this film unfolds. It is often interrupted by an uninteresting action scene that is taking place outside. Instead of focusing on what is unfolding in the bathtub, distraction is thrown on our faces.
Notice how loud it is rather than settling in the quiet. It is only appropriate that we hear the flesh being rippled by the razor. Worse, take a close look at the leg; it looks so fake that it is offensive. Even the blood does not have the correct color or consistency. So, I suppose, the scene is supposed to be disturbing because of how horribly it is conceived and executed.
Forget that it is a remake for a second. Remakes happen. But just because a movie is supposed to be a modernized beat-for-beat duplication does not mean that ambition should be thrown out the window. On the contrary, the work must be so driven to surpass the original that we feel the filmmakers’ passions in our bones. This can be accomplished by presenting more details than what is necessary.
For instance, they could have made the scabs so realistic that it is actually interesting—instead of just stomach-churning—to inspect them with a magnifying glass. They could have used an extremely well-trained dog during the animal attacks instead of using an unconvincing mannequin. They could have taken more time in the editing room and noticed that random loud noises actually take away not only from the action but also from the dialogue that is barely there in the first place.
Clearly, the horror is in the details and “Cabin Fever” missed the memo. Nearly every moment is forced and half-baked, truly a struggle to sit through. Although the performances, too, leave a lot to be desired, strong performances can rarely save a disaster. Around the fifteen-minute mark I wondered, “Who is this for?”
I’m still waiting for an answer.