Cabin Fever Review
Despite the wave of groans that spreads across the internet every time a remake is announced, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. There are plenty of of superb remakes, some of which are even better than the films upon which they are based. What is often frustrating about remakes, though, and has led to the expected groans, is where the motivation for the new version lies. Why, for instance, would someone want to remake Eli Roth’s 2002 film, Cabin Fever? If it’s just to make a quick buck based upon name recognition and not that a new take on the material, then those groans start to be heard in the cinema and in the living rooms of horror fans as well as online.
Travis Z’s Cabin Fever sadly has little to add to Roth’s original film and it actually strips away some of what made Roth’s film so entertaining and occasionally even a little challenging. Don’t expect to see a take on the racism subplot that ran through the original film, or the challenges to preconceived stereotypes surrounding small town folk in horror movies. Travis Z ejects these from the film but leaves the bulk of the framework in tact. At times this new Cabin Fever even feels a little like an attempt to do what Gus Van Sant did with his 1998 version of Psycho, changing the most minor of details, but shooting from the same script and even replicating a number of framing choices and edits.
The script, written by original Cabin Fever screenwriter Randy Pearlstein, does feature a few updates though, to let us know that the film is set now. So, we have a character who likes taking selfies, a half-baked twist involving a social network and another character who is obsessed with video games.
The latter is as close as the film gets to exploring interesting ideas, with the catalyst for the disaster that ensues being this character, Bert (Dustin Ingram), pretending that he is in Call Of Duty, armed with a real assault rifle and prowling through the woods around the cabin. There’s the seed of an idea there that could go somewhere, but this is quickly squandered.
Ingram is, for what it’s worth, rather good as the gamer going cold turkey, but his character, like all the other twenty-somethings is one-dimensional and easily definable with just one adjective. Gage Golightly, the “good” one in the group, is also somewhat engaging, but she showed in Red Oaks that she’s capable of more than she is given room to do here.
Travis Z directs Cabin Fever with a degree of competence and confidence, but it’s all very workmanlike and a lot of the films scares, for instance, come across as very lazy. The histrionic score is cranked up to almost unbearable levels and any respite from it only seems to be there so that Travis Z and co can throw in a loud stab of score to try for a cheap jump-scare.
He does seem to understand how to make a gory scene unpleasant, though, and those of a squeamish nature will certainly find a few scenes a bit of a struggle, but the body horror is never really that horrific and without a purpose it often falls very flat or just comes across as a little cold and clinical. A redo of the scene in which one of the group shaves her legs, for instance, makes even less sense here than it did in the original and increasing the level of gore simply makes the scene all the more ridiculous, rather than give it more of a reason to exist.
Cabin Fever comes across from the very beginning like a coldly calculated attempt to make money and little else. There are good ideas in the original film and clear attempts to do something a little different, but this remake often feels like nothing more than a branding exercise.