This is a pretty much shot-for-shot remake of Cabin Fever (originally released in the not-so-distant past of 2002). There has been a lot of negative discussion about the fact that this remake even exists, but I had two things in my favor going into this:
1. I’m not a particularly big fan of the original Cabin Fever. It’s fine, but I never understood the love it gets.
2. I don’t really have an issue with remakes.
With that in mind, I waited until my child was asleep and I fired this up. Oh, the excitement.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the plot, Cabin Fever follows 5 college students as they head out to a cabin for a weeklong vacation. They have a run-in with a hobo who has been infected with a flesh-eating virus. They set him on fire (as you do) and try to put the incident behind them, only to start showing signs of the disease themselves.
There is also a dog named Dr. Mambo who may be trying to eat them.
All caught up?
Two minutes in I knew I was in trouble. While it wasn’t exactly shot-for-shot (they carved a lot of script out), it was pretty close. However, the acting wasn’t as good, the music was louder than it had any reason to be and any humor that existed had been stripped away. That left me watching a poorly written movie played deadly serious. They said every line so earnestly it made Marky Mark’s character in The Happening blush.
I spent most of the movie trying to figure out who this was made for. As I mentioned at the top, the original came out in 2002. It is also held up in horror circles as a cult classic. I know there are many people out there who fell in love with the horror genre due in no small part to that movie.
This movie wasn’t made for them. Those people loved the original. Since this added absolutely nothing, there was no reason for this movie to take the place of their beloved original. Nor should it.
And that’s not even talking about Cabin Fever/Eli Roth superfans. I am not a superfan of either, yet I’ve been a horror fan long enough that I have seen the original more than once.
Was this made for new fans? I suppose you could make that case, but I don’t understand the point. Yes, it has been 14 years since the original came out, but I feel like it has aged pretty well. The effects still look good, which is one of the most important things to consider for an older movie. I mentioned that they cut a lot out of the script, but I believe the only things they added in were a couple of lines about video games and the internet. That tells me they didn’t feel a huge need to punch up the script to make it more modern. The original is out there. I feel like new horror fans would know Cabin Fever by reputation and would seek out the original. Maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe they’ll watch this one because it’s new, but this is just a worse version of the original. If the filmmakers attempted to differentiate it, I would be able to see the point. But they didn’t. It’s a dim copy of the original.
It doesn’t use the set-up to reveal anything new about the genre: to poke fun at its foibles. (With Cabin in the Woods just having come out in 2012, that would have been redundant anyway.) They could have taken this as a chance to show how far horror has come since 2002. This was released on VOD. Why not take it a little further? Throw some more carnage at us. I’m not saying I necessarily wanted to see more carnage, but at least that would be something different. You’re on VOD. Go wild.
I wanted to see them either go the route of carnage or go the route of laughs. Maybe both. Instead, they made the exact same movie. It did nothing new with the genre or the source material.
But maybe they didn’t want to do that. “I want to do a remake where I don’t add any humor but I also don’t actually show a woman getting eaten by a dog.” That’s fine. In that situation, the least you can do is change up the order or method of the kills.
By my count, only one death differed from the original in terms of timing. It was pushed up just enough that it took me off guard. The rest of the deaths pretty much took place using the exact same beats as the original. There were some tweaks in the method in which they died, but not huge tweaks. Because of this, I never felt uneasy. I never felt like this movie was going to show me something I hadn’t already seen. With the element of suspense gone, all that was left was to rely on the rest of the elements of the movie to keep me invested, but they weren’t good enough (or different enough) to do that. I wanted a little danger. A little uncertainty.
Deputy Winston was a female in this version. So that’s something different, I guess.
Just because there was no danger or uncertainty doesn’t mean the music didn’t reach ear-shattering levels when a scene was building to a “shocking conclusion” that we already knew about. I felt like I could hear the director screaming, “FEEL SOMETHING,” every time the music reached a fever pitch.
You won’t catch me saying good things about the Psycho remake, but you can at least see what they were going for. They were trying to bring the story of Psycho into a new era, where people may have been inclined to say, “I’m not watching Psycho because it’s in black and white.” (That being said, there is no reason to watch the remake of Psycho because the original is perfect in every way.) If nothing else, that’s a somewhat valid reason to remake a movie. Aside from, “We wanted to make another sequel but the last one did so horribly that we decided to reboot the original instead,” there is no reason to remake this movie using the exact same script.
As it turns out, that’s the exact reason this movie exists. Cabin Fever: Patient Zero didn’t bring in much money when it was released on VOD, at which point the thoughts of another sequel went out the window and the idea of a remake surfaced, with the hopes of reviving the series. By using the same script, it meant they were able to get right into making the movie. “None of this writing nonsense to bog us down,” I’m sure they said to each other. (One source reported it made $0 on VOD, but that can’t be right.)
I have spent a lot of time comparing it to the original, because it’s hard not to with a movie like this. But let me take a moment to talk about this movie without referencing the original.
It was fine, I guess. I didn’t like a single character, so I felt nothing when they died. The make-up was pretty good. After a bit of a slow start, the last 30 minutes was jam-packed with action. Some of it was fun, but, again, the insanely loud music took me out of the moment more than once, and the acting wasn’t good enough to take any of it seriously.
The gore was good. The deaths were entertaining, with at least one of them making me a little uneasy.
It’s not a good movie, but it’s not totally without merit. If I stumbled across this late at night and knew nothing about it, I’m sure I would have been somewhat entertained.
This is a below-average movie that gets dinged pretty heavily for being an exact copy of a well-regarded horror movie. I’m not offended that this exists. I’m not mad or disappointed. More than anything, I’m just confused.
I will say that I didn’t miss Eli Roth’s stoner Grim. I always hated that character. Grim was much more subdued (and more than a little threatening) in this version, and I kind of liked that.