Directed by Kaare Andrews
Despite the attempt at severing all association with the film due to studio interference, Ti West’s Cabin Fever: Spring Fever is a genuinely entertaining, if severely flawed follow-up to Eli Roth’s darkly humorous and gory Cabin Fever. Though still laden with black humor, it took the virus from the confines of the woods to a small town, where it was subsequently unleashed on a group of unsuspecting students at a school dance. Five years later, director Kaare Andrews takes the reins from West’s producers and delivers his own bastardization of the series, stripping away everything that made the first two films fun with the derivative and genuinely boring Cabin Fever: Patient Zero.
Patient Zero follows the trend of other third films by serving as a prequel and giving us a poorly constructed explanation as to how the virus allegedly made its way from a small isolated island and onto the mainland. It begins with an introduction to Porter (Sean Astin), a missionary dubbed “patient zero” by a team of scientists working in a remote and undisclosed facility underground. Immune to the effects of the virus, he is kept quarantined, unable to learn what happened to his wife and child. Naturally, this doesn’t sit with right him, leading him to threaten release of the virus through his own blood.
This story is slowly interwoven into the main storyline, in which a groom-to-be named Marcus is taken to an isolated island by his brother Josh, his best friend and business partner Dobbs, and long-time friend Penny, who also happens to be Josh’s girlfriend. Marcus is a little on edge about his forthcoming nuptials, and despite an attempt by Penny to rekindle an illicit romance they once had, they arrive via lavish yacht to the small island for a night of drinking, toking, and, as we quickly discover, melting flesh. They take off in search of help, their world eventually colliding with Porter’s.
Like most sequels, Patient Zero doesn’t live up to the standards set by its source material. It deviates too drastically from the tone and style of the first two films to such an extent that the virus merely serves as a tenuous link. It’s there, and it’s the focus, but all the goofy self-awareness of the first two films is eschewed in favor of an overly dark film that simply isn’t fun anymore. The goofy, tongue-in-cheek characters are gone in favor of overly serious stock counterparts, none of which exhibit enough personality to bring light to an overly dark (both aesthetically and tonally) film.
Strip away the Cabin Fever name, and Patient Zero becomes nothing more than a derivative outbreak film. Confined almost entirely to an island at night, the gleefully gory effects of the virus are relegated to the shadows or quick glimpses. The gist of it is there: red, burning areas on the body, followed by sores and bleeding before the skin begins to slough off. Andrews even apes two scenes from the first film, indicating either homage or blatant unoriginality; but as the film progresses and the two storylines eventually merge, it becomes less about the virus and having fun with its effects, turning into a boring character study that needlessly flirts with issues concerning morality and humanity. This is all well and good, but it’s done in such a lazy way, as if they forgot about it throughout most of the film until they realized they painted themselves into a corner. It’s a tacked on excuse to give the film emotional weight when all it really needs is a bit of lunacy.
There’s very little to say about Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. It’s a bland, mostly boring thriller that takes its source material and bastardizes it for the sake of capitalizing on a name. Nothing more, nothing less.
1 1/2 out of 5