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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Cabin Fever (2015)

cabin fever remakeMy notes on the remake of Eli Roth’s 2002 film …

It’s hard to escape the thought that this is a stoner in-joke that somehow got a green light and a budget … director Travis Z (Zariwny, of Scavengers and Intruder) takes the Eli Roth-Randy Pearstein script from Cabin Fever (2002), with only the tiniest of updates (a selfie gag) and elisions, and shoots the whole thing again.  Given that Cabin Fever – which I liked – has already had two random sequels without quite establishing itself as a franchise on a par with, say, the Wrong Turn or Leprechaun series, it’s hard to see whether there’s a point in doing a Gus Van Sant-style remounting of the script unless it’s to underline the fact that, for all its qualities, Cabin Fever isn’t Psycho.  The effect is less like Van Sant’s copycat Psycho than that scene in Scream 2 where a scene from Scream is re-enacted as an extract from Stab, a slasher movie that’s been based on the events of the first film – it’s the same dialogue but with much twitchier acting and overinsistent music.  Here, Z goes so far as to lift a music cue (and an overhead shot) from Kubrick’s The Shining early on and elaborates with leaden playfulness on the way Eli Roth riffed on horror  conventions for his nasty little tale of in-group in-fighting and necrotising fasciitis.

 

A new cast of kids – Gage Golightly, Matthew Daddario, Samuel Davis, Nadine Crocker, Dustin Ingram – replace the original cabin gang – Jordan Ladd, Rider Strong, Joey Kern, Cerina Vincent and James DeBello – and go through all the same dialogue exchanges and plot twists but manage to make the Class of 2002 seem subtle  by comparison.  Tim Zajaros replaces Roth in the role of the creepy weed dealer with the dog and, in a minor switch, the party-hearty deputy Winston is now a woman (Louise Linton – a Travis Z regular).  It’s the sort of film where your mind wanders to minor variances and mistimed bits of business – the punchline sign to the ‘do not talk to Dennis’ running gag is misplaced in the frame so you have to remember the first film to get the joke, and the icky, bloody sequences (the leg-shaving, the back-scratches during sex, the girl torn apart by a rabid dog) seem to have less elaborate effects (indeed, the nature of the disease seems to have been scaled down to simple weeping sores rather than the original flesh-eating bug.

 

Roth’s script is still well-paced and structured and – if the rewrite had been more extensive to take on the rise of social media callousness and the further polarisation of country/city and rich/poor in America – the thing might still have seemed pertinent.  A couple of the zingers still work, but this cast can’t quite sell the way the characters act cruelly, foolishly or without sense: these are cartoon folks doing what they have to to keep a rubbish horror movie going not the credible creeps of the first iteration.  If this clicks, expect instant remakes of Hostel, Reeker, Saw, My Little Eye, Long Time Dead, Ginger Snaps, The Girl Next Door, 30 Days of Night, The Babadook, Martyrs (oops), Hatchet, the remake of I Spit On Your Grave, It Follows and The Witch.  Or maybe Roth will just hire someone new to remake Cabin Fever every year as in some spiralling demented version of Groundhog Day

 

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