It’s not uncommon these days to stumble upon a horror movie about some hideous affliction that melts and rots the human body, but where the hell did this flesh eating disease trend start? With Eli Roth’s 2002 Cabin Fever, but before I get to that and the latest chapter in the franchise, I need to “begin at the beginning”. . .
I choose June 25, 1982 to be that beginning, the night I first saw John Carpenter’s version of The Thing at the local drive-in. Like most everyone who was there I was not even the slightest bit prepared for the horrors I was about to see. I went with my mother, my brother and one of my friend’s from grade school, Rob.
While my mother and my brother watched the movie from the confines of the car, Rob and me went outside and got as close as we could get to the screen, sitting near one of the speakers. It was the discovery of Bennings being taken over by the alien that did me in. I raced back to the car and collapsed in the back seat shaken by what I had seen. And there I remained, not watching but listening to it and my mother and brother’s reaction to it.
Seeing, or half seeing, The Thing desensitized me to a limited degree to the horror of horror movies. I was 13 when that happened and after that when I ever I caught a horror movie on cable, I was, like, yeah, so, is that all you got? I’ve seen The Thing for chrissake.
However, there were a couple of movies down the line that still managed to shock me. A couple of months later I caught Blood Beach (1980) late one night on HBO and for reasons I still cannot figure out a certain shot under this pier, with all that shade and deep shadows mixed in with the sunlight unnerved me. Later on it was the scenes in the creatures lair with all the bodies and body parts.
Yes, this is all going somewhere, just stick with me.
A couple of years after Lucio Fulci froze my blood cold with his City Of The Living Dead (1980), then titled The Gates Of Hell; I think that one did me in just as bad as The Thing, and like that movie I also “checked out” at a certain point, that point being when this chick started bleeding from the eyes and puking up her own guts.
Hang on for a minute. I’m having a ‘nam-like flashback. Okay, I’m good, let’s keep going . . .
Not much after that has been able to grab manhandle my nutsack in an uncomfortable manner. Then again I do tend to stay away from those movies that have a tendency to do that. And most of those flicks I’m not a fan of anyway for they always involve psychopaths, torture porn and/or cannibals munching on naïve Americans wandering around in their territory. At any rate, all remains calm until the summer of 1997 when a little sci-fi/horror movie called, Event Horizon, comes sniffing around.
The unexpected shocker for me in that movie was the reveal of the scrambled footage from the original crew that horrifically shows what happened to them. I was totally not expecting any of that and, yeah, it gave me a momentary start. I still love that movie, still own it, and still watch it from time to time, same thing with The Thing, too.
Now we come to March 2003, the weekend I saw Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. I told you this was going somewhere. Despite having read all the coverage in Fangoria I was on the fence about wanting to see this from the beginning, but there was something about it that enticed me, so I went Sunday afternoon.
I had a feeling something was wrong when those creepy opening credits stirred something long forgotten in me, namely that night I saw The Thing. I couldn’t understand the connection so I relaxed and watched and slowly, ever so slowly, became horrified by what I was witnessing. I checked out in every way possible the moment Rider Strong beat to death is would-have-been girlfriend in the shed after she’d been suffering for days with the disease and there was even a rabid dog munching on her that made the scene that more disturbing.
I had always heard about people being so traumatized by the something they had witnessed that they had gone pale. In the back of mind I always wondered if that was true. My intention was to just go the restroom and splash some water on my face, once I got there I saw my face in the mirror and it was literally white as a ghost.
So, it was true after all, I thought.
I felt a little better after the water splashing, but I went straight home after that. I was in the middle of penning my first novel (still unpublished) at that time, a horror/sci-fi novel, and on the ride home I seriously considered giving up on writing anything horror related again, but that only lasted for the length of the drive. By the time I got home I was fine and eventually finished writing it years later.
I did get Cabin Fever when it hit DVD, and finally saw it all the way this time, and like The Thing and Event Horizon (could never say the same thing about Fulci’s movie) it’s now a favorite of mine to watch. I still want to see the director’s cut of it, too.
Now I finally come to what we’ve all been waiting with baited breath for—Cabin Fever: Patient Zero!
I never saw Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009), briefly wanted to, but decided against it when I learned Ti West’s version had been usurped by producers and cut into something he never intended to create. I probably will one day. From what I understand there’s at least a connection to Roth’s film, being set in the same town and having the deputy from the first film reoccur. In Patient Zero there’s no connection to Roth or West’s films. Two more movies were to follow, connected to Zero, but someone came up with the bright idea of trashing that plan in favor of remaking Roth’s film. So, as we speak, that’s where the franchise of Cabin Fever is at.
I dragged me feet on requesting a review copy because I assumed it might have the same impact on me as the first one did, and there in laid the conundrum. I was repelled and attracted to the idea of being horrified by yet another flesh eating disease movie. I think it’s more than obvious what decision I made, and even so I was seriously let down by it. It wasn’t shocking, it was just mediocre.
It’s a jungle setting this time out with ex-hobbit, Sean Astin, playing a man named, Porter, who in the prologue has had his family decimated by a new strain of this disease. The CDC has ordered him imprisoned on this remote tropical island because he’s been deemed immune but a carrier. They think if they can poke and prod and test his blood long enough they’ll discover a cure. But Porter isn’t the main character here, the main victims are, and those main victims, as usual, are a group of kids.
Marcus (Mitch Ryan) is the dude who’s about to get married, and in lieu of not getting a proper bachelor party his brother, Josh (Brando Eaton) and two long time friends, Dobbs (Ryan Donowho) and Penny (Jillian Murray), decide to throw one for him on a remote island but it’s obvious the local who brings them to the island is completely unaware it’s being used.
Well, you know what they say, ignorance is bliss. Until you’re not ignorant anymore, that is, and these kids get educated pretty damn quick.
There are shades of The Flesh Eaters (1964) as the surrounding waters have been contaminated as Josh and his chick, Penny, find out when they go snorkeling. Desiccated fish is all they find and this is how these two get infected.
Marcus holds out the longest, not getting infected until the very end and Dobbs ends up in the raw after he and Josh go to the CDC base for help when it’s obvious Josh and Penny are sick. The base, however, has been compromised by fiendish plans and every one inside, except for the “crazed scientist,” is either dead or dying.
The only things I enjoyed was Astin and Vincent Gaustini’s practical FX, highlight of which is a catfight between infected Penny and an infected female assistant on the beach. Keep watching into the credits for there’s a nice twist revealed. During the course of writing this review I learned this chapter in the franchise was supposed to be a prequel, I suppose had the next two films been made we would have seen how they linked up to Roth’s movie.
Image Entertainment has recently released this movie on separate DVD/Blu-ray combo and DVD editions. This review is of the standard DVD only with the 2.40:1 widescreen transfer looking damn good. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) only and it comes with English subtitles only as well.
There are no extras at all included on either the DVD or the blu-ray.