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DVD Review: Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever
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Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever dvdCabin Fever 2: Spring Fever
DVD
Directed by Ti West
Starring Guiseppe Andrews, Noah Segan, Rider Strong, Alexi Wasser
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release Date: February 16, 2010

Last summer I saw Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and I didn’t think I would see a worse film that year and it turns out I didn’t (and mind you I saw Old Dogs). Four months into 2010 and I now believe I will not see a worse film this year than Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, the long-awaited follow-up to the 2003 horror comedy that established Eli Roth — who had nothing to do with the sequel — as one of the most promising genre filmmakers to come along in years. Halfway through its 86 excruciating minutes I couldn’t wait to get this hunk of rancid shit out of my DVD player. Whenever I see a particularly bad movie I’m left feeling depressed and old, but after watching Cabin Fever 2 nearly a week after my 31st birthday I wanted to lock myself in my bedroom, close the blinds, and lay on the floor in the fetal position. Instead I went out on my front porch, lit up a cigarette, and spent several minutes reflecting on this movie and life in general. The morning weather had been cold and overcast yet as I stood outside basking in the cool March weather the sun started to emerge from behind a thick wall of clouds. It improved my mood somewhat but my opinion for the movie hadn’t changed.

I hate Cabin Fever 2 with a fiery passion and I feel it’s my duty to warn all my fellow movie buffs and horror fans to avoid this movie no matter the cost. Because I care. People who know me also know I’m a huge horror fan. I grew up watching horror films even during my earlier years when some would advise against subjecting an impressionable young mind to the sinful pleasures contained within the faded, flaking video boxes of various sizes (remember the big box?). To me the thrill of watching a scary movie was the greatest drug. I’ve seen so many over the years that I’m practically immune to whatever jolts, shocks, and gratuitous gore the horror filmmakers of today can throw at me.

The night before I watched Cabin Fever 2 I saw another movie that had been the subject of much discussion among horror fans in 2009, The House of the Devil. This was the kind of fright flick you don’t see much of these days: atmospheric, lurid, unnerving, methodically paced, and genuinely scary. I grooved on every minute of it. The strangest thing is that these two movies of diverse quality share a common link, a gentleman named Ti West. West wrote, directed, and edited House of the Devil and directed Cabin Fever 2 from a screenplay by Joshua Malkin, but when you watch the two films back to back as I did you can hardly believe they came from the same director. As it turns out that may not be the case, at least with the atrocity I witnessed this morning. West completed principal photography on Cabin Fever 2 back in April 2007 and the film sat on the shelf for more than two years while the producers and executives at Lionsgate continuously reedited and reshot West’s footage until it barely resembled the movie he initially filmed, but unfortunately West couldn’t take his name off the final product. Having no membership in the Directors Guild of America means you can’t hide behind the name of Alan Smithee, the Remington Steele of bad movies. Thus West’s name will forever be tied to a movie that was neither worthy of his effort or our time.

The story begins a few days after the events of the original Cabin Fever. Paul (top-billed Rider Strong), the sole survivor of a flesh-devouring plague that destroyed him and his friends while they were vacationing in a rural mountain community, emerges from a creek looking like a pizza with extra cheese. He staggers through the woods and ends up on a country road where an uncaring school bus promptly reduces him to a puddle of human sludge. Local police deputy and hedonistic head case Winston (Giuseppe Andrews, also returning from the original, investigates the accident and tells the traumatized driver to go about his business, blood-drenched school bus and all. Winston first encountered Paul and his friends in the original and with the rest of the local police force attempted to cover up the outbreak that killed them but since Paul’s been cooling off in the town creek the water has been highly contaminated, the same water that is now being bottled up for sale by the Down Home Water Company. A sizable shipment of that tainted H2O has arrived at the local high school where the faculty and senior students are preparing for the school prom. Lovelorn Jonathan (Noah Segan) has long pined for his dream girl Cassie (Alexi Wasser), even though she’s been in a tumultuous on-and-off relationship with Marc (Marc Senter), the school’s resident psychopath, for years. Hearing about their latest break-up Jonathan is pressured into asking Cassie to the prom by his pudgy horndog friend Alex (Rusty Kelley) but Marc violently warns him against doing that. Jonathan decides to blow off the prom and stay home.

On the night of the prom, which has a cheesy “sea disco” theme this year, a case of Down Home’s special water is used to make the ceremonial punch. The kids gather to dance (to the disco theme from the 1980 slasher Prom Night, a very nice touch), screw, and be merry while drinking plenty of punch. It’s not long before the skin disease, later revealed to be necrosis, returns to do severe damage to the unprepared teens resulting in a barrage of puking blood and dropping body parts. Jonathan decides to go to the prom after all and expects to spend a magical evening wooing the girl he has held in his heart for most of his life. Instead he finds himself fighting to keep himself alive along with Cassie and Alex as their fellow classmates fall prey to the virus in the most gruesome ways. Deputy Winston realizes too late the gory horror he has inadvertently unleashed and tries to flee town with his equally dopey cousin Herman (Mark Borchardt) while a team of gas mask-wearing troops have arrived prepared to do whatever’s necessary to contain the spread of the disease even if it means quarantining the uninfected and shooting anyone who tries to escape.

After nearly an hour-and-a-half immersed in Cabin Fever 2’s endless assault of blood, vomit, puke, and semen (sometimes all mixed together), I felt like I had just been on a date with Amy Winehouse. This movie is an ungodly, unwatchable mess that no amount of editing or reshoots could possibly redeem, but at the very least could’ve been a moderately enjoyable splatter comedy. No such luck my friends. What we have here is a movie trying desperately to make up for its stunning lack of any story or interesting characters whatsoever by burying its audience in over-the-top gore effects and crass attempts at humor. Cabin Fever 2 is a waste of time that had me constantly looking at my watch and pausing to take a break for coffee and cigarettes. Of course seeing some fat kid getting a blow job in the boys’ room after which the lucky lady gets to spit his “love gravy” into the nearest sink is not an ideal way to start my day, but that was my call and I have no regrets. I asked for this assignment and like Lee Van Cleef in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly once I’m paid (free DVD!), I always see a job through to the end.

When I first saw Cabin Fever in late 2003 I didn’t think Eli Roth was the Second Coming of Horror Filmmaking like almost everyone else but I highly enjoyed it as a stylish and bleakly amusing film that spent an ample amount of time setting up its characters and allowing Roth’s intriguing premise to infect the story like the skin disease that reduces human flesh to puddles of gore and turned friends into enemies. Working with a low budget, probably lower than that of the sequel, Roth was able to slowly build tension and sympathy for his characters and saved the best effects work for the hell-breaking-loose finale. The movie also had a strange sense of dark humor that jibed well with the gruesome horror moments. The original Cabin Fever may not be a perfect movie but it was better than it could’ve been and it deserved a better sequel than the one it ultimately received.

I’ve never had a problem with blood and gore effects. Like all forms of visual effects they only work best when they’re enhancing the film. If the effects are allowed to overtake the narrative the whole movie falls apart in my eyes. There’s no shortage of gruesome prosthetic make-up and fountains of stage blood (and other bodily fluids) in Cabin Fever 2, but it’s incessant and by the time all hell breaks loose in the last 45 minutes I was basically watching an extended gore FX reel. They go way beyond gratuitous. The whole movie goes beyond gratuitous. There’s plenty of gratuitous nudity, gratuitous swearing, and gratuitous weirdness. Now I normally have no problem with any of these things as they’ve served me well in the past, but when they’re all they movie has to offer it becomes a bit tiresome.

That’s not all. The story is made confusing by the addition by little ideas that have no payoff and serve absolutely no purpose to the overall film. It’s like the filmmakers were gathering up whatever pieces of random footage off the cutting room floor to pad out the running time. The original Cabin Fever had a few moments of random weirdness, such as Dennis the blond kung-fu kid who likes to bite people and shout “Pancakes!“, but they worked without derailing the serious aspects of the movie. In the sequel, the attempts at humor are not just poor but completely lacking context. The principal apparently has a butch gay lover. Fine, but we only see this character once in the movie and he has no dialogue and does nothing of any importance except look gay. Then there’s Marc’s predilection for practicing martial arts. Interesting character detail and I was fully prepared to see him kung-fuing his way through infected classmates but once again it never pays off. The school janitor pisses in the punch bowl for no good reason other than because the kids irritate him but the only time he’s shown to be mad in the movie is when Alex tears down a prom banner, and that hardly warrants draining your lizard in the punch. Need I mention the trigger-happy thugs in gas masks who show up out of nowhere without giving the characters or even the viewer any idea who they are or where they came from? Cabin Fever 2 has the outward appearance of a bad Troma, but it’s lacking in the crazed energy and anarchic abandon that could make even the worse flick from the house Lloyd Kaufman built moderately entertaining.

Cabin Fever 2 was fucked around severely in post-production and it shows. Whoever came up with the bright idea to have the movie book-ended by horribly rendered animation sequences showing the progression of the tainted water throughout the country needs to be fired and banished to teaching Driver’s Education to illegal aliens for the rest of time. The movie struggles to reach the end of its running time and then it runs out of steam before our eyes by stopping the main story cold and setting the final scene in a shithole strip club filled with characters that have nothing to do with the main story. If that wasn’t lousy enough we’re treated to the sight of an infected stripper whose breasts closely resemble the face of Baron Harkonnen. According to an interview with West I read on Bloody-Disgusting.com, the released version maintains a lot of what the director originally shot, including the animated prologue, but was reedited to his dissatisfaction. The final scene in the strip club and the animated epilogue were added after West left the production, which explains why the animation in the epilogue was noticeably cheaper than in the prologue.

Maybe one day we’ll get to see his director’s cut and judge for ourselves, like the infamous “Producer’s Cut” of Halloween 6 but we shouldn’t hold our breath. However, it’s disheartening to see the once director-friendly Lionsgate having gone mad with power. I suppose the success of the Saw franchise and the awards bestowed upon Crash has convinced the higher-ups at the studio that their balls are bigger than they really are, which is why they’re giving multi-picture deals to Dane Cook and relegating worthier genre efforts like The Burrowers, The Midnight Meat Train , and Blood Creek to playing in fleapit dollar cinemas or debuting on the shelves on your local video store. Lionsgate is starting to resemble the Dimension Films of old when the Weinstein brothers, money drunk off the success of their Scream series, believed they could make better horror films than Wes Craven or Guillermo Del Toro. The original Cabin Fever came along at a time when the studio was still finding its legs but Eli Roth’s movie, while not a smashing success most were predicting it to be, was still profitable and gave Lionsgate prestige as a company willing to take chances on the future horror filmmakers of the world. Almost seven years after Cabin Fever debuted it’s fitting that its heavily compromised sequel would finally see the light of the day as the studio has fallen by the wayside, like a sad bookend in a way. Eli Roth originally had an idea for a Cabin Fever sequel that supposedly would take the form of an animated folk musical centering on the goofy Deputy Winston traveling the countryside spreading necrosis through random acts of sodomy while carrying on conversations with multiple animal characters living in his head, or so I’ve heard. I guess Lionsgate didn’t think that movie would play well in middle America. Meanwhile they’re preparing another sequel to Saw, this time in 3-D! The more things change the more they stay the same.

The cast is another lost cause because I didn’t give two shits for the majority of Cabin Fever 2’s characters with the exception of Noah Segan’s Jonathan, the only teen at the school with a possible future outside the confines of his small rural town. The rest of the cast all do adequate jobs given the material they had. Giuseppe Andrews does what he does best, playing an idiotic burnout. Rusty Kelley actually had me feeling empathy for his character Alex at times. Alexi Wasser gave a fine performance and Marc Senter made for a decent asshole bully. The other notable performances came from genre mainstays like Bowen, Borchardt (whose scene in which he and Andrews have a conversation that turns into a competition to see who can say “man” the most is one of the best in the movie), and Judah Friedlander of 30 Rock and Feast as a security guard at Down Home Water, and though they do their best to bring some life to a lifeless affair their parts were cameo bits that end as soon as they began. Independent horror filmmaker Larry Fessenden (Habit, The Last Winter) also puts in a brief appearance as an unfortunate water truck driver.

As for the rest of the movie I’ll break it down Joe Bob Briggs-style. We have, in no particular order, a double-digit body count of bloody, melting post-pubescent zit farms; super glued fingernail; disastrous swimming pool booty call; oozing, infected pecker; random pregnant teen in school bathroom who looks like she’s seen better days this trimester; fire extinguisher head crushing; wood shop band saw hand amputation; hammer whacks to the skull; nail gun shot to the eye; strippers so lousy Flavor Flav would toss their asses out; and finally, a high school graduating class with enough collective intellect to make the punks on The Hills look like scholars of George Bernard Shaw.

That, in a nutshell, sums it Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.

To celebrate their dumping of this cinematic abortion on DVD like so many prom night dumpster babies, Lionsgate Home Entertainment has scraped the bottom of the extra features barrel but at least the video and audio presentation are solid. The 2:35.1 widescreen picture is bright and clear and the 5.1 English Dolby Digital soundtrack makes every song, line of dialogue, and ambient noise come through fine. English and Spanish subtitles are also provided.

The aforementioned extras are slim and uninvolved. There’s a behind the scenes featurette that runs thirteen minutes and functions more like an electronic press kit with some decent on-set footage and interviews but there’s no real meat to the feature. On the other hand the three-minute “Gore Reel” has plenty of meat but of the kind created in an effects workshop. This is essentially an assemblage of outtakes from the bloodier scenes scored to the same song from Prom Night used in the movie. Gorehounds might eat it up, but I thought it was pretty dull, much like the actual movie.

Finally there is a trailer gallery containing previews for Blood Creek, Saw VI, Train, and the original Cabin Fever plus advertisements for the Break.com website and FearNet. These same previews play upfront when you first load the DVD.

I try to not have expectations when I first see a movie but going into Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever those expectations were pretty low and my instincts were soon proven correct. I held out hope that a decent movie could be salvaged from this gruesome mess but what I got instead was an unfunny, moronic, and depressing experience that will scar me for some time to come. I will not be holding my breath for the (likely) inevitable Cabin Fever 3.

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