Tag: sean astin

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

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.

The Goonies

The Goonies (1985)
★★ / ★★★★

In Richard Donner’s “The Goonies,” a group of kids found a map containing the location of a pirate treasure. Brothers Mikey (Sean Astin) and Brand (Josh Brolin) had a week before their family were forced to move because their parents could no longer afford their home. But when Data (Jonathan Ke Quan), Mouth (Corey Feldman) and Chunk (Jeff Cohen) agreed with Mikey to search for the mythical treasure for one last adventure, they stumbled upon the hiding place of three Italian criminals (Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano, Robert David) on the run from the cops. Their hiding place contained a secret passageway that led to an underground cave that housed the legendary pirate ship. “The Goonies” would appeal to kids because they would most likely be able relate to the characters’ silliness and quirkiness, the soundtrack was energetic, and it played upon the universal idea of children’s penchant for treasure hunting. Despite being a kid at heart, I wasn’t that entertained. There were far too many people in the cave. The two girls, Andy (Kerri Green) and Stef (Martha Plimpton), were completely unnecessary. The romance between Andy and Brand dragged the picture’s momentum. How could we root for their romance if they weren’t fully realized characters? The fact that the picture kept suggesting that there could be something between Andy, around sixteen years old, and Mikey, who was still in elementary school, was more awkward than funny, creepy than cute. I felt like the girls in the movie were added simply to appeal to the same sex. I wish they made their exit when they stumbled upon a well where three guys above could have taken them home. I grew tired of their whining. I enjoyed the film most when the guys accidentally triggered booby traps. It was like watching a light version of Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” exciting but we never truly felt that the characters were in any real danger. We were simply curious to see how the protagonists would adapt to the quickly changing environment. I did wish, however, that the criminals were more dangerous. Most of the time, they acted more like cartoon characters. I didn’t buy for one second that they were smart enough to pull off breaking someone out of jail as they did in the first scene. “The Goonies” wasn’t rich with subtlety. The child actors’ lines often felt forced and it was obvious when some of their lines were dubbed. They probably ran out of takes. Still, the movie was entertaining and charming in its own way. Based on Spielberg’s story, I couldn’t help but wonder how sharper and stronger it might have been under his direction.