Netflix UK film review: Cabin Fever
Matthew Turner | On 13, May 2016
Director: Travis Zariwny
Cast: Gage Golightly, Matthew Daddario, Samuel Davis, Nadine Crocker, Dustin Ingram
Watch Cabin Fever (2016) online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Though by no means a classic, flesh-eating-virus movie Cabin Fever marked an auspicious debut for horror director Eli Roth back in 2002, serving up equal amounts of gore and black humour. 14 years later, Roth is on board as executive producer for this spectacularly pointless remake, which offers no significant improvement on the original and even ends up heightening some of its flaws in the process.
Directed by Travis Z (the Z stands for Zariwny, in case you were wondering), the film uses the same script (co-written by Roth and Randy Pearlstein) as the original film, with only minor tweaks, such as the removal of a racist joke, the addition of smartphones and the gender-swapping of a dodgy deputy (now played by Louise Linton).
Plot-wise, the film is pretty simple. Five good-looking friends – Karen (Golightly), Jeff (Daddario), Paul (Davis), Marcy (Crocker) and Bert (Ingram) – arrive at a remote cabin (why, yes, it is in the woods) for a sex, drugs and booze-fuelled vacation. However, their celebrations are rudely interrupted when Karen develops a flesh-eating virus, causing the others to lock her in the shed, while they decide what to do.
Things get nastier, as the other members of the party begin to contract the virus (seemingly not realising that it might actually be contagious), but the disease turns out to be the least of their problems…
One of the main problems is that the characters somehow manage to be even less likeable here than they were in the original – they think nothing of screwing each other over and are apparently quite happy to let a total stranger burn to death in agony, after an infected local asks for their help.
If there’s a subversive or humorous intent here, then it backfires badly, most notably in a scene that’s supposed to be a hesitant mercy killing, but ends up being almost gleefully nasty instead, with the character in question relatively unconcerned by what he’s just done. It’s certainly horrible, but it doesn’t evoke horror, just disgust.
On top of that, Zariwny even bungles the film’s most iconic moments – the leg-shaving / flesh-stripping sequence is poorly staged and lacks the slow build and shock impact that the scene had in the original, while a nasty scene involving a dog effectively happens offscreen (although maybe that’s just as well).
Frustratingly, the script fails to exploit anything that might give it some modern-day relevance, such as the rise of social media – sure, there’s a scene where someone takes a selfie, but that’s about as far as it goes.
It’s interesting to note that none of the original cast (Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong, Joey Kern, Cerina Vincent and James DeBello) went on to greater things and the same fate looks likely to befall the remake crowd, since no one really distinguishes themselves and they all seem largely interchangeable.
In short, there’s no compelling reason for this film to exist and it’s hard to fathom the logic behind it getting green-lit in the first place. Watch the original again instead, if you have to.
Cabin Fever is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.