2016 - 99 minutes
Directed by: Travis Z
Written by: Randy Pearlstein
Starring: Nadine Crocker, Matthew Daddario, Samuel Davis, Gage Golightly, Dustin Ingram, Randy Schulman, Louise Linton
The default response to news of a movie remake usually ranges between trepidation and anger. Many remakes/reboots/recalibrations are often dismissed as pointless or a cash grab or both before ever being seen. If you were questioning the necessity of a remake of the debut feature from Eli Roth (who gets a “presented by” credit here) that was made merely 14 years ago, an actual viewing of 2016’s Cabin Fever confirms those doubts. It’s made up of a long buildup with zero payoff and drains any of the lowbrow allure from its inspiration.
Roth’s 2002 original isn’t a seminal horror film, though it became somewhat of a cult hit and spawned two low-rent (and inferior) sequels. It also possesses an unrefined charm in the bleak outlook and black humor, and you can sense that the fledgling filmmaker has a love of the genre and its angst.
Travis Z’s remake is more polished, which is actually a disservice to the nasty flesh-eating-virus material. And the material is nearly identical, as the filmmakers used the original script without any substantive reworks. Their idea of innovation is switching the gender of a sheriff’s deputy (Louise Linton). Man or woman, it would’ve been better to give the character something to do.
No one is given much of anything to do. Five late-teen-to-early-20-somethings head to a secluded cabin where they can drink and have sex. Apparently there’s one couple (Matthew Daddario, Nadine Crocker), longtime friends who may harbor romantic feelings for each other (Gage Golightly, Samuel Davis), and fifth-wheel comic relief Bert (Dustin Ingram). Bert’s a grating ass – a guy who thinks it’s “cool” when he almost kills one of his friends with the assault rifle he’s unqualified to handle, but at least he’s distinguishable. After a long time hanging out with these bland characters, one of them is stricken with a nasty virus. Cut off from the world with their car damaged and no cell service (of course), the group finds itself in a tight, and gory, spot of trouble.
Not helping the slow first act and a half are dubious performances that add no color to the already thin characterizations. It’s as if this group is just lethargically rehearsing the original script and by the time we get to the screaming, the hoarse shrieks aren’t the slightest bit believable. Everything and everyone is just going through the motions.
The nasty bits look disgustingly good, but again, it just recycles standout parts from Roth’s film, including a leg shaving scene – probably not a good idea when your skin is peeling off. It’s gross, and just as immaterial as everything else on display.
Cinematographer Gavin Kelly deserves mention for postcard-perfect shots of a cabin overlooking the water and overhead drone shots that give us something pretty to look at and distract from the rest of the dreck. Living up (or down) to the worst traits of a remake, Cabin Fever does nothing to justify its existence.