There was a lot of buzz surrounding Eli Roth when Cabin Fever was making the festival rounds back in 2002 before its theatrical release. With a story involving a flesh-eating virus in the backwoods, Roth delivered plenty of yuks and yucks, and gore hounds had a new favorite on their hands.
Seven years later, cult-favorite Ti West was tapped to direct a sequel that wound up going through the wringer of studio suits, and West tried to get his name removed — even though the film isn’t that bad. You can still clearly see West’s ode to ’70s horror even if producers added more gore and sent it straight to video.
Now, another seven years later, with the rights lapsing with Lionsgate no less, here comes a prequel that sets out to clarify the virus’s origin in Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, out September 2 from Image Entertainment.
Here, we meet a group of friends gathering for the wedding of Marcus (Mitch Ryan) in the Dominican Republic. Marcus’s brother Josh (Brando Eaton) has chartered a boat to take them — along with best friend Dobbs (Ryan Donowho) and long-time unrequited love Penny (Jillian Murphy) — to a deserted island for an impromptu bachelor party.
What they don’t know is that the fast-spreading virus has been introduced to the surrounding beach waters, and a group of scientists — led by Dr. Edwards (Currie Graham) — has quarantined the infected Porter (Sean Astin), who seems to be a host to the virus and may be key to a cure, something our intrepid partiers may find handy after Penny and Josh contract the virus while snorkeling.
Image Entertainment unleashes Cabin Fever: Patient Zero on Blu-ray as a bare bones release — the film’s trailer isn’t even included — on a 25GB disc in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Considering that the film was shot digitally, and slapped onto a cheap disc, it’s no surprise to find it riddled with noise. While banding, aliasing, and crush are never present, it’s too bad this one aspect couldn’t have been cleaned up. It’s also surprising to find it so prevalent considering there are no special features to compete with and only one audio track.
As it stands, detail and color are spot on, something that comes in handy whenever the gore finally comes into play in the final half hour. If it weren’t for the distracting noise, this would be a great picture.
As for the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, it too falls short, but still manages to make the environments come alive and deliver the LFE punches one expects in a horror film. Surrounds are always buzzing once night envelops the island and the bugs come out to play. Directionality also helps during a few key sequences when something happens off-camera.
The main problem with Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is that it falls victim to the time-honored horror tradition of assuming viewers don’t care where the virus came from. Considering that the original film took place in deep in the woods, the tropical birthplace makes zero sense. While the end credits feature some clips to fill in the gaps of how the virus spread throughout the island facility, and shows a key character making his escape to the mainland, the whole film feels like a wash because the originally planned sequel to this has already been scrapped. You should probably look at this as a standalone feature; that will help it hold up on its own.