Let’s get this right out of the way. Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, is the best of all three of the Cabin Fever films so far. You’ll probably react to this news in one of two ways: Indifference, or you’ll defend the Eli Roth original to the death as the One True Cabin Fever film. The problem with this is that the horror genre has moved beyond the referential “Homages and passion are enough” status quo. 2012’s Cabin In The Woods changed all of that. When Cabin Fever came out, it flopped pretty hard but the theater of people I saw it in were changed forever. It’s a raucous film that has energy and lots of flaws, but it’s lots of fun. The sequel was a bizarre result of studio intervention and Alan Smithee-esque levels of final cut butchery, so it’s best left forgotten.
Enter Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. Like I said before, the horror genre has slowly shifted the status quo all due to the main influence of Joss Whedon’s Cabin In The Woods; a film which satirized nearly every horror film ever made, including the original Cabin Fever, albeit indirectly. It’s a landmark film in the genre and it set a benchmark for all further horror films to be measured against, almost as a litmus test of genre stability and creativity. If your movie’s plot is more or less covered by the events in Cabin In The Woods, then your film is, on some level, a failure. You’ve failed to move beyond the trappings of the genre that were so adequately summed up in the love/hate letter that is Cabin In The Woods. Why do I keep bringing up other movies to talk about this movie? First, I’m a nerd. Secondly, because this movie takes a solid response to Cabin In The Wood’s proclamation, it’s mission statement for the genre, which was to strive for innovation. Cabin Fever: Patient Zero isn’t the most innovative film in the world, in fact it’s basically two derivative movies put together. But that’s the genius of it.
It’s two kinds of outbreak movies that play out slowly side by side, telling the ostensible origins of the disease from the original film. The two movies that we see are wildly different in tone and feel from each other. One telling a story that’s darker, with a distinct science fiction feel, that concerns the morality of containing a potentially world threatening outbreak. The other movie is a typical “five dumb teenagers go to a cabin in the woods” story that we see played out in Cabin In The Woods. The characters in Cabin Fever: Patient Zero fit into the “archetypes” of that film, PERFECTLY. Whether this is intentional or not is irrelevant (I believe it is), because the message is clear if you’re a fan of the horror genre. They’re analogues meant to be the characters from one movie, slowly intruding on the characters from another movie. The outbreak half of the film is led notably by Sean Astin of Lord Of The Rings fame. He’s surprisingly good here, and as the characters slowly change their core nature, (another detail given explanation in CITW), the Teenager half of the film meets his story in a way that does something I’ve not seen before. That alone is enough to earn my recommendation you see this.
Basically, if you watch the film as a visual and storytelling rebuttal to Cabin In The Woods, it’s a borderline genius masterpiece. But even if it didn’t have that level of depth to it, even if it wasn’t the first valid response to a game change, genre defying piece of art, it’s still an incredible movie that’s acted really well, gory as all get out, and has a delightfully dark sense of humor. It’s also shot nicely, but screw all that. There are scenes of gore in this that had me squealing and giggling like a school girl, and for some horror fans, that’s enough just for them. For me, I expected massive disappointment, and instead I was massively surprised.
Images: Image Entertainment