Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero


Today we have a treat in the form of Cabin Fever: Patient Zero . The third movie in the Cabin Fever franchise is a prequel written by Jake Wade Wall. Wall has previously written the screenplays for the 2006 When a Stranger Calls , the 2007 The Hitcher , and the 2008 psycho clown movie, Amusement .

Patient Zero was directed by Canadian comic book artist, Kaare Andrews. Andrews previously wrote and directed V is for Vagitus, the 22nd chapter in the horror anthology, The ABCs of Death . He also directed the 2010 film, Altitude .

Based on Altitude alone, I would have funded Kaare's next project. I am glad someone thinks like me and allowed Andrews to helm this splatter opus.

Kaare is also known for his comic book covers. In particular, his graphic for Peter Parker, Spider-Man #29 was the inspiration for the kiss between Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the real Spider-Man movie.
Patient Zero features Sean Astin, Brando Eaton, Jillian Murray, Lydia Hearst, and Ryan Donowho.

The official press release reads:
This prequel in the Cabin Fever franchise promises to be as gruesome as its predecessors.  A group of partygoers venture to a mysterious Caribbean island where they discover an abandoned research facility. Two of the partiers go for a swim, unaware that the water is contaminated. Soon they show symptoms of a wretched flesh-eating virus and the group has limited time to search for a cure. The group finds an ominous doctor with an immune patient who may hold the cure – or death. The group must find a way to survive the epidemic before it consumes them all, one by one.

For those of you who have played the video game Dead Island , the beginning of this movie will immediately feel familiar. It is very much like a live action version of the night before the hero wakes up and has to fight off an island of undead with a ping pong paddle and a broken oar. According to Lion's Gate, they acquired the rights to a Dead Island live action movie. This was announced in 2011. I doubt we'll ever see that flick.

Pancakes!!!
Dead Island glitched and the newness wore off pretty quick. Patient Zero , however, delivers from beginning to end. Well, it delivers on what one has come to expect from the Cabin Fever franchise: gore, splatter, and more gore.

Fans of Cabin Fever might be expecting laughs from this prequel. That is one area were Patient Zero does not deliver.

Patient Zero is missing the humor that characterized the first Cabin Fever (definitely) and the second Spring Fever (mostly). The sadistic cruelty played up for laughs is missing.

Do not sit next to Dennis.

Moving the franchise towards a more serious horror movie is not a bad thing, especially considering that Andrews is capable of restoring horrific suspense - something the first two were definitely lacking. If you enjoy the humor Patient Zero might not be your cup of blood... however, if the gruesome, gore made you smile, then you will still be a fan of the series.

One thing I do miss is Rider Strong's character, Paul. Seeing how this was a prequel, would it have killed them to include a brief cameo? I mean, I would imagine the guy needs the money. Such a small Easter Egg wouldn't have wrecked the more dramatic mood, right?

Wall's story, a smart weaving of two story-lines, features the typical idea that Americans go wherever they please and suffer because of hubris.

The first story features Sean Astin as the mysterious Potter. The audience is led to believe that Potter is an American missionary and that he is the lone survivor of a pandemic outbreak that killed his son. He is quickly quarantined against his will and becomes the subject of experimentation.

Potter doesn't behave like the typical missionary. Perhaps there is more to this man that we first perceived?

This story-line unfolds as a revenge plot that allows Sean Astin to play against his Samwise/Rudy image. He is mad as hell and willing to express himself. Astin's turn as Potter is incredibly convincing.

Kind of reminds me of the Rorschach quote: "None of you seem to understand. I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with ME! "

The second story involves a foursome traveling to a remote, presumed desolate, island for a bachelor party. Mitch Ryan is Marcus, the bachelor, Ryan Donowho is Dobs, his friend and business partner, Brando Eaton is Josh, Marcus's little brother, rounding up the cast is Jillian Murray as Penny, Josh's girlfriend and childhood friend of Marcus. When I saw this cast I could only think one thing... how are we going to have enough titillating viscera with just 4 people?

The first story may have already happened or may be taking place parallel to the second story. Andrews matches the flow and ebb perfectly as he cuts between Astin and our four hero/victims.

Ryan, Donowho, Eaton, and Murray.
Any problems I have with the movie are typical logic flaws and that should be taken up with Mr. Wall. Or, really, if you are going to watch a horror movie, just suspend all judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. I have no faith in the Panama Center for Disease Control because it was built on an island in a cave. While I applaud their attempts at isolation I can't help but think the location was doomed from the start.

I am curious about the actual virus. At first it appears to really hurt but then, people seem pretty cool with their face falling off. They are able to converse and operate machinery. I assume the virus kills off all the nerve endings that deal with pain... although I would also assume that those same nerve endings might make it impossible to feel anything, so walking, talking, probably breathing, might be a real issue. Just an observation. One has to wonder just how far the Cabin Fever virus mutates a human. Are they one step up from the rage virus, but a whisper away from the Z word? Comments are appreciate to help solve this mystery.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero displays the true talent of Kaare Andrews as a director. He has some limitations here but I believe he works through with a deft hand. Patient Zero is not the cult blockbuster of Eli Roth's original Cabin Fever , but for the horror genre it is not a bad entry. Especially for a sophomore director. I hope to see Mr. Andrews gifted with a comic book movie in the future, or... I would not feel sad if his future efforts remained in horror.



The original story for Patient Zero was also a prequel but it involved the virus spreading on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. Not far from reality if you ask me. A fourth film, Outbreak , also meant to be a prequel, was supposed to be shot back to back with Patient Zero .

Outbreak was scrapped and I think the new plan involves a reboot for the franchise with a new Cabin Fever . Will they go back to a horror comedy or maintain the new suspense horror angle? Time will tell so stay tuned!


Many thanks to Ingrid Hamilton and Daniela Ponce at www.gat.ca for allowing me to screen Cabin Fever: Patient Zero .

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