Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)

CABIN-FEVER_PZ_THEATRICAL

The first two “Cabin Fever” films are really quite good, but the second one was seen as a disaster, with director Ti West wanting his name taken off it, heavy re-editing and so on. Strange how even a misfire from a good director can be more entertaining than a lesser one at the top of their game.

The story this time revolves around a supposedly deserted island, somewhere near the Dominican Republic. On the one hand, there’s actually a large research base on it, where a bunch of researchers have the one and only carrier for Cabin Fever, and on the other a guy marrying into Dominican money has an impromptu stag weekend involving trying to find the perfect spot to drink and get stoned for a few days. Will the virus meet the partygoers? Will there be an ending where we see they didn’t quite contain it?

There’s a curious tension with a lot of horror films like this one, relating to how much setup do you want to do, as opposed to how much time you want to see your heroes up to their necks in blood and guts. Too little and no-one will care about the characters, too much and people may have already checked out before the fun starts. Sadly, there’s way too much damn setup here, with irrelevant and boring subplots a-plenty. There’s the secondary tension of “in an era of mobile phones and global communication, how do we get our heroes away from help?”, and of course the deserted tropical island is perfect in that regard. 

Cabin-Fever-Patien-Zero-Set-Photo

This is one heck of a gory film, though. Best of the lot is the fight between an escaping doctor and one of the stags, where they literally tear each other to shreds. You have definitely never seen anything like it – it’s what snuff porn for zombies would look like – and kudos to whoever worked out the vomiting special effect, because it looks great.

Turns out, I discovered after watching, that this is a prequel, and it helpfully keeps to the ISCFC rule “All Prequels Are Rubbish”. Well, okay, not rubbish, just…It’s a setup that horror fans will have seen a hundred times, the “whoops, this is how the contagion gets out” is so obviously telegraphed that it must be a joke, and the characters are all a bit * shrug * (with the honourable exception of Ryan Donowho as best friend of the groom Dobbs). Does anyone really care about the origin of a fake disease in a film? Was there a single person who watched the first Cabin Fever and thought “this would be tons better if I knew the exact way that illness made its way to this spot?”

This was to be the first of two prequel films, shot back to back, but unknown monetary problems led to them cancelling the second one, and now the producers are actively looking to do a remake of the first Cabin Fever. IT WAS ONLY TWELVE YEARS AGO, YOU IDIOTS

Cabin_Fever_Patient_Zero_3

Rating: thumbs down

Advertisements

The “Cabin Fever” films (2002 & 2009)

cf1

 

The Cabin Fever films sat there on my shelf for a few years, daring me to watch them almost, and some time off work has given me the excuse I need. Two of the biggest names in modern horror direct (Eli Roth for the original, Ti West for part 2) and my knowledge of their work is pretty much non-existent. So let’s see if they’re any good!

It’s a sign of how good the first one is, I think, that my brain stopped going to the “Cabin In The Woods” comparisons after the first twenty minutes. Five college kids, for some reason, hire a cabin in the woods. Do horror films not exist in their universe? The archetypes are all there, but this lot don’t get into any trouble thanks to something in their basement, they get into trouble thanks to the Fool of the group ignoring the pleas for help of a man with a mysterious skin condition. Rather than a demon, ghost, merman or whatever, the villain in this film is a disease (and humanity, of course, but that goes without saying).

Mercifully, the kids understand what’s going on fairly quickly and try to take measures to protect themselves, while odd characters wander into and out of their lives – Eli Roth himself, playing just some guy out camping; a very odd Sheriff’s Deputy who is much more bothered about drinking and hitting on women than he is in doing his job; the unfortunate patient zero; and the residents of the local store, straight out of every redneck horror film you’ve ever seen (but with a few pleasant twists). The question of whether the kids will stop the outbreak or not is sort of answered by the existence of its sequel, but it’s still an absolute blast to watch.

This was Eli Roth’s first directorial effort, after a lifetime of making super-8 films with his friends, and it’s pretty amazing. He’s one of those people who went through the things you’re supposed to go through, almost – love of film from a very early age, film school, short films, feature debut. As well as being a decent actor (particularly in “Inglourious Basterds”)…he’s an annoyingly talented fella. The cast are all strong, too, especially as they’re all people who you’ll have seen in sitcoms, not so much in features. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will be checking out the “Hostel” films next, although I’m pretty sure I won’t have quite so good a time with them.

The sequel was directed by Ti West, who’s gone on to make a lot of fascinating films – this wasn’t his first, but it was the early part of his career. His opinion of “Cabin Fever 2” can perhaps be measured by the fact he wanted his name taken off it (which he was unable to do, not being a member of the Director’s Guild), but it’s really not that bad. The linking thread is the Deputy, as well as a very brief cameo by Rider Strong who starred in part 1 too, and this film is set in a local high school. At the end of part 1 we see “Down Home Water” taking their supply from a creek which has been poisoned by the corpse of a disease victim, and the beginning of part 2 sees them delivering the water to a local high school.

Part 2 is, in a lot of ways, a more straightforward film than part 1. The people you expect to die, die, in fairly gruesome ways, and the ending is the same old “whoops, let’s leave the door wide open for a sequel” that has ruined more film franchises than I care to count. John loves Cassie, but she’s going out with the biggest douchebag in the school; John’s friends are a loveable group of nerds who’d much rather sit around and watch horror movies than go to prom. Thanks to the water, prom night is a mass of blood and death, especially when a group of government agents start killing everyone to contain the spread of the disease.

The things that made the first film so good are present, but in a garbled form. Because you know how it’s going to end (at least half the main couple will survive, as will the comic relief, at least until the end, and the final shot will show they didn’t manage to contain the disease after all) it lends the last half hour of the film a sense of slightly boring inevitability. It’s not quite as funny as the first one, even though some of the ways the disease is transferred are pretty cool.

cf2

Ultimately, it’s a committee trying to recapture what made Roth’s original so good, and kind-of failing. Apparently, Roth wrote a draft of a potential sequel screenplay which was abandoned in favour of the thing we ended up with, and West was hampered at every turn – I mean, that draft may have sucked and West’s ideas may have been impractical, but it still would have been fun to see what they came up with. I also presume Rider Strong had a weird clause in his contract from the first film, as he’s first billed in the sequel despite being killed very early on in the film and playing no further part.

Ultimately, I’d recommend both these films, with more qualifications on the sequel than the original, but still. It’s interesting to see a horror film where the only real villain is a disease, and to have a horror film which can have laughs which come naturally from the characters and not just lame gags. A cut above the average, for sure.

The Innkeepers (2011)

“The Innkeepers”- an Adam Schirling review

***Warning, 2 Spoiler Alerts:
1) I am going to tell you how this crapfest ends
2) If you ever saw Top Gun and wanted to bang Kelly McGillis do not watch this movie

The other day while in the local Stop-n-Shop picking up groceries, my old lady and I decided to peruse the Red Box for any possible good movies to check out. For my British or Aussie friends who may not be in the know, the Red Box is a giant dvd rental vending machine where you can rent an assortment of new releases or older titles for 1 buck a day. So, once more, I feel that the $1 rental fee makes all titles subject to possible review by the esteemed ISCFC.

The Innkeepers popped up on the first screen in ‘Horror’….Creepy DVD cover art? Check. Haunted New England hotel? Always cool. And, wait…Kelly McGillis???!!!???!! Maverick’s girl toy from Top Gun? No fucking way! I had to have this movie on my screen immediately. As soon as dinner was over and drinks were poured, I popped it in, surrounded by my old lady, my lil sis, and good friend & DA artist Tom Butts.

Very quickly you could see the influence the director had from movies like Poltergeist. It was quickly established that this was a ‘creepy hotel’, all the pre-requisites were present. Last weekend open, owner in Barbados, two barely competent employees left to run the joint, strange guests checking in…….All the plot points were filling in nicely. Dread was building. Stories of supposed ghosts were told. A couple cheesy bullshit ‘boo’ scenes were even forgivable, as you could see the point, a young director trying to break up plot building with slight comedy to keep you guessing. I am fucking saying, friends that I was on board with it all at first.

My biggest complaint with the torture porn films of the mid 2000s was the lack of buildup. There were no subtle nuances; they just threw the gore in your face until you couldn’t take it anymore. So I was pleased to see a film take its time, establish some characters (as flat and cliché as they all were), and make a backstory. But then……we kept waiting….and waiting….and waiting……

Kelly McGillis shows up as a failed actress (HA!) and drunk who is in town for a ‘psychic medium conference’….I have no doubt that such conferences exist, but what were the chances of this old bitch staying at the one haunted hotel on its last weekend? OH, Kelly….For those of you with fond remembrance of the spunky blonde from Top Gun; the brilliant Intel specialist with a thing for renegade pilots: You Shall Be Disappointed. She has been replaced with a frumpy old butch haired lesbian with zero acting ability. In this film she portrays the ‘old psychic’ role poorly, offering only the fucking cliché advice “stay out of the basement!!!!”…Listen fuckers, I live in a 100 year old house in New England, and I fucking know to not be hanging out in the goddamn basement for no reason. And to insult our intelligence even more: the clerk in question that warning was directed to keeps going in the fucking basement!!!If you find yourself in a creepy house, and a psychic tells you to stay the hell out of the basement, just fucking do it.

So, we have more buildup, and more buildup, and more buildup…..It becomes obvious that the scene is being set for a big giant evil showdown in the damn basement. The female clerk in question (played by Sara Paxton, who did a stand up job in the Last House on the Left remake) figures out this bad shit is going to go down asap, and escaping it is literally as easy as walking out the front door of the small hotel in the middle of a quaint Connecticut downtown street (this was NOT the goddamn Overlook stuck high up in the mountains of Colorado, escaping literally would require walking about 25 ft.) but still she hangs out….and keeps going in the fucking basement…

NOW FINALLY, YES! She is trapped in the basement, something is chasing her. She runs into the small basement closet (that’s always the right choice, trapping yourself) and lo and behold the slow moving cliché ‘dead bride’ ghost appears and we get a fucking ‘fade to black’….motherfucker!!! ANOTHER FUCKING SOPRANOS ENDING!!!

Not entirely, as the scene opens the next morning to her dead body being brought out on a stretcher, and her fellow incompetent employee giving the ole’ “I can’t believe it” statement to the cops, all the while Kelly Mcgills stares out the window sadly, no doubt starting to second guess her tactic of just warning people to stay out the basement….As the scene fades out we get a glimpse of a room of the hotel, with a very quick slight shot of a shadowy ghost of Sara Paxton in the room before the door slams and credits roll.

Almost 2 fucking hours of plot building and dumbass clichés just to keep you hoping for a big crazy Poltergeist type payoff in the form of the house literally shitting itself with demons and ghosts, but nope, we get a hipster getting stuck in the basement and the slow ghost bride eating her, or stabbing her, or who fucking knows what.

People, just listen to your ole Uncle Adam and Aunt Kelly McGillis and stay out of the fucking basement.

The Innkeepers on IMDB
Buy The Innkeepers [DVD]

Trigger Man (2007)

Where I found this: Okay, I’m wandering outside my remit here. This was a download, as this DVD isn’t available in the UK – Danish or nothing. But it’s really interesting, and I’ve been inspired to write a half-serious, if shorter than usual, review of this film.

Ti West is one of the up-and-comers of horror. He’s done “The Innkeepers” and “House of the Devil”, and is already 20% more awesome than most directors because this is his profile picture on IMDB.com:

First things first – the plot of this film is so paper-thin it’s an insult to things that are paper-thin. Three friends, one of whom is about to be married, go for a hunting trip in the forest. And that’s pretty much it, until one of them is shot by an unseen presence, then the rest of the film is about trying to survive, and maybe fighting back.

But, like I said, the plot is the least interesting thing about this film. Even with a budget of approximately £7, West is skilled at building up the tension, and it uses its limitations (amateur actors, no location budget) to its advantage, I think. There are lots of good choices – interesting camera angles, and a sense of uncertainty that many bigger budget films have been unable to capture.

That’s quite enough of the good stuff, as I’m terrible about writing about why films work and are good and entertaining. The film is 80 minutes long, and the first 30 (at least) are taken up with nothing. Now, knowing West’s other work, this seems to be a stylistic choice on his part, but it doesn’t get round the fact that such a large portion of a short film being taken up with three amateur actors wandering round a forest doesn’t make for the world’s most amount of fun. Also, it would have been nice if he’d spent a few quid investing in something which stopped his camera from jiggling round so much – there are zooms where zooms aren’t needed, and it wanders dangerously close to found-footage-film territory at certain points. Oh, and it doesn’t so much come to a conclusion as just grind to a halt.

I was wondering whether this counted for this site – given West’s popularity among horror fans at the moment, this is maybe not even in cult territory. But then I realised that any film made for $10,000 over 7 days about people getting shot at in a forest is never going to be multiplex fodder, and therefore we should be fine in featuring it on this site.

To conclude, it’s a fascinating early film from West, and while it may not be the best film you’ll ever see, fans of micro-budget cinema, “Deliverance” homages, and surprisingly tense films will find something to enjoy here. I think West is interested in the effects of minimalism in cinema, and I hope he gets the chance to make something really good that doesn’t have to rely on the horror film press to get it out there.

COMMENTARY: I wish I could have made this review a bit stupider, like my first two for this site, or informative/entertaining, like the other reviews by my ISCFC cohorts. But there’s really not a lot to talk about here. Don’t worry, though, I have at least one more giant shark film to watch, and if there’s one thing you can take for granted, it’s that people will still want to make films about mutated monsters eating people in glamorous locations.

Trigger Man on IMDB
Buy Trigger Man (2007) (Region 2) (Import)