Dance, dance, dance 'till I kick you in the face
Now, I realize that refusing to toss Eli Roth into the wood chipper is a stance that goes against the grain of this site. However, if you can look past that ridiculous “torture porn” label and check out Cabin Fever — Roth’s love letter to 1980s horror movies that he grew up watching — you just might realize why the movie was the toast of the 2002 Toronto Film Festival and grossed over $30 million on a $1.5 million budget (not to mention DVD sales and a recent Blu-Ray release). As a rather nihilistic yet amusing homage to movies like Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Night of the Living Dead, Cabin Fever also carried its own profoundly scary social implications. The script, by Roth and co-writer Randy Pearlman, introduced the dynamic between five spoiled and self-indulgent suburban college grads who treat nature as a vacation destination of most quaint proportions (“It’s so cute… this little room… this little bed.”), before slowly increasing the tension during a camp-fire scene. When a bloodied, semi-lunatic man appears and aggressively demands help, the kids (mostly in a panicked form of self defense) kill him; but one or more of them gets infected, and the resulting paranoia causes the group to self-destruct. The characters turn on each other in a very Lord of the Flies spectacle in terms of the civil war that erupts between so-called good friends. When one of them tries to find help from the local townspeople, the unexpected reaction is that these kids must have done something to deserve this infection, and, therefore, these outsiders must be destroyed before they infect the proper folk. However, for all the disturbing undercurrents of the story, Cabin Fever successfully balanced horror and comedy; it was a B-movie with glossier technical credits, a soundtrack featuring composer Angelo Badalamenti, effective cinematography, and relatively restrained gore (Jordan Ladd’s progressive decline was kept in shadow until a big reveal was necessary). Most importantly (thanks in part to the most unsettling shaving scene in cinematic history), it delivered on thrills and exploitation.
If you liked Cabin Fever, then you’ll hate the sequel.
After being shelved for a number of years, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever shows us what happens when 16 producers turn on director-for-hire Ti West and hack his cut into an indecipherable final version. As a result, this sequel doesn’t even belong to the same species as its predecessor. In fact, it’s a blessing in disguise that the producers don’t even acknowledge that this sequel is based upon characters created by Roth and Pearlstein. While two returning characters actually do appear in the sequel, fans of Rider Strong (who receives top billing) will be disappointed in his mere pre-opening credits cameo. Of course, the most annoying character of the first film, Deputy Winston (Giuseppe Andrews), periodically appears several times but doesn’t even have a purpose. Even more bizarre is that, even though the sequel takes place immediately after the events of the first movie, the flesh-eating disease has inexplicably changed. (In the first film, the virus affected the skin first, and the vomiting began a day or so later. With Spring Fever, the projectile vomiting sets in almost immediately in most cases.) It suffices to say that there is no subtlety, suspense, or even lukewarm tension at any moment within this sequel.
Spring Fever only exists as a showcase of bodily fluids and revolves around blood, vomit, pus, and scabs. It seems that a shipment of Down Home Water (from the first film’s infected reservoir) has made its way to a high school, where it is served up in the cafeteria and the prom night punch bowl. And not only does the punch bowl contain the virus-laden water, but it is also spiked with the student-hating (and already infected) janitor’s urine. So, these kids are fucked, and, in very short order, the dance floor is full of tackily dressed students who are projectile-vomiting blood. Meanwhile, while sipping from a bottle of contaminated water, a girl gives an unfortunate blow job to a student who later opens his trousers to a mess of skin, pus, and blood. As if that’s not enough, a few tacked-on scenes exist merely to show us what happens when a stripper’s boobs are affected by the virus. Believe it or not, those boobs aren’t nearly as cringeworthy as the scene where the Prom Queen’s boyfriend ditches her to sneak off and deflower a morbidly obese girl in the school’s indoor swimming pool. Not only does this chick start bleeding down there, but she dismisses the blood with claims of virginity. This causes the guy to get excited and start really going after it, so the bleeding gets worse, and then her tooth falls out. While the guy jumps out of the pool in disgust, the girl begs for help before drowning in a bloody sea of panic. While it’s pretty hard to top all of that gratuitous carnage, I assure you that Spring Fever does just that with the fate of the token pregnant student.
Again, while Cabin Fever gave us a chance to either love or despise its characters, Spring Fever treats its cast like sliced lunch meat. The closest thing we get to protagonists are a pair of utterly generic students — Noah (John) and Cassie (Alexi Wasser) — that neither the filmmakers nor the audience cares about at all. Hell, it’s not even possible to worry about the pair when they start chopping each other’s limbs off to stop the disease spreading through their bodies. However, this unspeakable nastiness pales in comparison to the blowtorch used by the movie’s editor to piece together scenes. Between acts, non-existent transitions are provided through stupid animation sequences that make a “Beavis and Butthead” episode look like a Renoir landscape. Overall, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever is barely a third cousin twice-removed from its predecessor. And that cousin pissed blood in the family reunion punchbowl, too.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be found at agentbedhead.com.
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