A Sci-Fi Honey Review by Katie

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)

Confession time: this Sci-Fi Honey has never made it through the first Cabin Fever movie.  I attempted to see it on the night of its theatrical opening, almost exactly 12 years ago, completely unaware of who Eli Roth was but excited for something possibly campy, definitely gory, and hopefully fear-inducing.

What I got was Pancakes.

While what I saw of the gore lived up to my expectations, the rest of the film was so laughably awful, with characters you wanted to punch every time they said or did something stupid, which was often.  Rider Strong has one of the most gratingly irritating voices I’ve ever heard, and his whining was wearing on me.  I looked over at my moviegoing companion and motioned for the door, because we’d rather get our money back and enjoy some real pancakes than sit through another minute of this bloody drivel.  I love the kind of film that I think Roth was attempting to make, but for me it either has to be smart (like Cabin in the Woods) or imbued with the right kind of comedy to be entertaining (like The Evil Dead).  If I wanted to watch a bunch of college kids get wasted and bone themselves to death, I’d throw on a Jason sequel and call it a day.  Cabin Fever did nothing interesting or inventive to keep me in my seat, or on the edge of it.

Seriously though, this is horror?

Fast-forward a decade, and Eli Roth is a prominent member of the Splat Pack, with a huge share of admirers throughout the horror community (including our own Horror TV Honey), with a lot of fans pretty stoked for his upcoming Amazon-set The Green Inferno.  The popularity of Cabin Fever spawned a sequel in 2009 helmed by a then-unknown Ti West, and this coming week brings us the DVD release of the prequel to this flesh-eating saga: Kaare Andrews’ Cabin Fever: Patient Zero.  This latest entry has nothing to do with Roth other than borrowing the virus from the previous installments, but considering where Roth and West’s careers have gone since their auspicious Cabin Fever-related beginnings, Marvel Comics illustrator Andrews may be next in line to lead the new wave of horror director talent.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero basically consists of two plotlines, oscillating between a research facility on one side of a deserted tropical island, and a small group of bachelor-partying people on the other.  The research facility has some classic viral-epidemic stock characters: our titular “patient zero” (played with gusto by Sean Astin), the maniacal doctor with a god-complex, a sympathetic research assistant, a busty research assistant, and various expendable future virus victims.  Astin is the lone survivor in a group of infected humans, and it is discovered that he is a “carrier” – infected with the virus but immune, and thus the only chance for a possible cure.  Relegated to a cell with no contact with the outside world, and treated more as a “specimen” than a human, Astin is understandably unhappy with his status as a lab rat and hashes a plan to escape – with a little revenge thrown in for good measure.

Don't make me send you to the Cracks of Doom...
Between the two plots, the mad-scientist plot had me more intrigued, and was buoyed by some capable performances by Astin and the sympathetic research assistant, played by Solly Duran.  The film spends a lot of time setting up the interpersonal relationships of the bachelor party characters, but I was left feeling rather indifferent about who lived or died in their group; and once the virus takes hold, if you’ve seen the first two films, you know exactly how they’re going to meet their gruesome end.  As with many horror sequels/prequels, Patient Zero strives to up the gross-out quotient established by the first two films and accomplishes this in spades; between a cringeworthy oral sex scene and a skin-shredding “catfight,” gorehounds will approve of all squishy viscera this film has to offer.  The script also punches up the fun-factor that I wasn’t feeling in the first film, with some of the best evil doctor one-liners since Doctor Giggles: “it looks like your condition is fatal” / “you might need a referral…” It’s not Shakespeare, but hey, what can you expect from the script of a movie where a character is beaten over the head with a giant dildo?

Did you pack the dildo? This trip is going to be SO much fun!

The original Cabin Fever is well-regarded as one of the “new” horror classics by fans and critics alike, and even got a pretty good Rotten Tomatoes score.  While the second film dropped off significantly in terms of quality, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero seems to be a return to some of the characteristics of the original.  It’s not perfect, but my expectations were so low from Roth’s film that I found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the gore and camp of Patient Zero.  As for part one, well… I sometimes wonder what I missed out on, but the direction the film seemed to be heading when I made a break for the exit all those years ago was a grim corner of bad-movie hell, and I did not want to make that journey again, after all the crappy movies I’ve grumbled through. 

Sci-Fi Honey Rating:  Three flesh-eating amoebas out of five.

Twist my arm!

Can’t get enough Cabin Fever?  Check out Revenge Honey’s trilogy retrospective!