Monday, March 15, 2010

What Goes Best With a Tux? Flesh Eating Bacteria, That’s What!

Cabin Fever was one of the oddest theatrical releases of the early 21st century, an overexcited, occasionally refreshing and often annoying mix of over-the-top gore, crass comedy, ‘80s homage, and pancakes. Perhaps then it’s only fitting that its sequel comes with a bucket of offscreen controversy and onscreen sloppiness.

In case you didn’t have your hopefully still attached ear to the horror news networks these past few months, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever was directed (near completely) by House of the Devil  golden boy Ti West, who pleaded fruitlessly to have his name removed from the credits. Word on the virtual street is that West disagreed with producers over the final cut during the post-production process, eventually stepping away from the project and letting the Powers That Be Lionsgate finish the film as they saw fit.
It shows.
Quick Plot: Top-billed Rider Strong reprises his quickly rotting role as he flees the titular cabin and gets splattered by an early morning school bus. Familiar local cop Winston (Guiseppe Andrews) misdiagnoses the gunk as moose and an animated credits reel reveal the town water soon to be bottled is infected by that same flesh-eating virus that tore through many pretty people in Eli Roth’s original.

We quickly move on to typical high school politics, where smart senior John (Deadgirl ’s jerk Noah Segan, still traveling via bicycle) pines for pretty, popular, and recently-broken-up-from-her-samurai-wannabe-psycho-boyfriend Cassie while chubby pal Alex smoothly enjoys a quickie--real quickie--from a randomly easy classmate. A frog dissection and near suspension later, it’s prom night (cue the song! seriously) and the high school’s a’hoppin’ with a disco beat.
If you’ve heard anything about Cabin Fever 2, it’s probably that this is not the film to watch while eating nachos. See, there’s a lot of blood, and guts, and viral warts on private parts, and bloodier semen than Wilhem Dafoe’s Antichrist  climax. That being said, it’s also really not that...well...disturbing.

Or particularly good.
As the school dance kicks in, Cabin Fever 2 kicks into gear with a gymnasium-full viral spread that starts with a poisoned water, infected urine-spiced punch bowl. An awkward sex scene between the prom king and token obese outcast in a pool seems only to hint at something interesting, while the dance floor erupts into a lightning fast bloodbath before the prom queen can give what was sure to be an Obama-esque speech. In almost no time (the movie is under 80 minutes, after all), we’re left with John, Cassie, Alex, and a few unexplained gun-toting officials trying to survive amid lots of gooey grossness.
Oh! And of those 80 minutes, about 28 or so are randomly assigned to Winston’s Adventures as the enigmatic, if also annoying and baffling cop hangs out with Judah Frielander and hits the road in his cousin’s van. While I enjoy the pure weirdness of Andrews’ oddball character, nothing in this storyline (if you can really call it that) ever feels in line with the rest of the film, making the many diversions to his aimless lollygagging an incredibly wasted amount of screen time with no real payoff.
On one side, we have a humorous, but also occasionally heartfelt teenage gorefest built on occasional suspense and realistically drawn characters. On the other, a simply bizarre and directionless tale of a dimwit. I kind of enjoyed the persistence Cabin Fever 2 had in NOT being your typical by the numbers sequel, but it was, much like its basis, all over the place, further scattered by a tacked-on, far too long 10 minute epilogue following a high school stripper.

I can’t really say where Ti West’s involvement ended, but the lack of a strong directorial touch in the editing finish is uncomfortably felt in the latter half of Cabin Fever 2. Honestly, I don’t know that this would be anywhere near a classic had he stayed on board throughout, but the messiness of plotting--much like the original--makes the viewing experience simply strange.
A recent article in Shock Till You Drop offered one tidbit by producer Lauren Moews explaining how fitting it was that Cabin Fever 2 was edited by the same woman responsible for several John Waters’ films, and there are indeed some similarities. West gives us plenty of gratuitously ick-heavy moments that dare the audience to look away, like a prematurely ended-by-puke lap dance or intensely detailed fingernail peel (the only one that got me wincing). There are plenty of refreshing little quirks that keep the film fun and it’s hard to argue with any movie that recycles the only great thing about Prom Night (namely, Jamie Lee Curtis’ disco tune). At the same time, it’s impossible to care about anything when the film seems so insistent on not taking itself seriously.
High Points
There’s some nifty practical effects at work, like an early diner scene featuring a blood-squirting voicebox

West tows a careful line with his high school characters, using honored archetypes but imbuing them with interesting enough spins, like the ex-boyfriend’s Japanophile quirks and John’s surprisingly refreshing honesty with his dreamgirl (not deadgirl)
Low Points
An overly headache inducing fire extinguisher attack would be impressive if we hadn’t seen it before in The Signal or Irreversible
We don’t need--or really want--a huge backstory in fluffy romp like this, but the fact that the army or FDA or FBI or whoever the men with guns and gas cans are never explained is one more missing piece in a film not fully put together

A few moments of tension are broken when you realize how ridiculous they play out. Would the soldiers--or whoever it is patrolling the school, see previous Low Point--really not hear the kids escape an empty classroom 4 seconds after exiting themselves?
Lessons Learned
William Katt’s Carrie tuxedo never goes out of style

Bitches value spite and money

If getting a touch of infected blood on your skin will infect you, then running said hand through a buzzsaw and watching the blood squirt all over your face will surely be the cure

Cabin Fever 2 is a manic viewing experience, but not completely devoid of charm. Fans of the original will probably get a kick out of it, as it shares much of the crass humor, all-out gore, and smarter-than-your-average teen sensibilities. If I believed in officially rating films, this one would fall in the negative side. I can't say I liked it (mostly because I didn't like it) but it's not a complete waste of 80 minutes, especially if you're simply too curious to let it pass you by.


  1. I did like Noah Segan in this, when he wasn't yelling. His yell sucks. I did like how he told her about how he feels though - that seemed to be a little different than something one might see in a film of that nature.

    There are a few good moments, namely the look of the prom and some of the gross-out stuff was pretty gross and enjoyable. However, it was not nearly as gross as people said it was. If you say a film is wicked gross, it better be wicked gross. Still, even if the film had been grosser, it was such a mess that it would have not helped anyways.

    As for all of the Winston stuff, you are 100% right - none of it had any purpose in the film and all it did was serve as useless filler. It was nice that he had some more screen time, but much of his stuff felt off and not as entertaining as it was in the first film.

  2. Agreed on Segan and the confession. I like that it came at the beginning instead of wasting time towards what you would assume would be a tearful tense end.

    Love the potential of the prom stuff, even if it makes West look a little like an early '80s obsessee following House of the Devil. I'm totally waiting for the guy to take the reins of V soon. As far as the grossness, it was there, but just THERE. I think the actual choices could have been genuinely upsetting if those moments were used on characters we liked or in moments of actual suspense, but instead, they just sort of floated in and out.

    The Winston stuff felt like an extended DVD extra. Again, I haven't watched the original in a while and I think I recall not really getting it then either, but it was amusing in small doses and could have been the same here. But soooooo much time was devoted to it, and it went ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE!


  3. I just watched this earlier. I agree with the comment that it wasn't that gory and so many elements that had great potential went unexplored. I am in the minority regarding the final sequence at the strip club. Thought it was great to pick up with that character and the non-PC dialogue in that sequence was funny as hell.

  4. I can see the stripper sequence working for some people and it did have some humor to it, but it just felt the film kept going on and on when I was already done with it. Plus, I'm always aware when a short film feels too long, and the sort of Part 2 within made that obvious, at least for me.

    It did, however, teach me some really important lessons about public candy dishes and borrowing anything that's not mine.

  5. Pretty average, but the braces BJ was uncomfortable, and then actually watching that kid's junk spurt blood...yuck.

    And all the homages to Carrie and Prom Night was pretty cool.

  6. The homages were definitely what kept the film on track for me. Life is just more interesting when you sport ruffles on your tux and make me remember Jamie Lee's disco chops. The BJ didn't really do much for my tastes, but then again, bloody semen isn't generally on my list of daily concerns.

  7. Yeah, well I mean, bloody semen isn't on my list of daily concerns either. More like weekly concern, but still...

  8. I won't get into how many times I have to check myself for breast warts. Not a fun practice.

  9. Just got done watching this and I have to say that I was not impressed. The lead's bitchy screams, Winston's useless scenes and unnecessary extended ending...I just wasn't into it. It was nice to hear the Prom Night music and see some crazy gore, but overall it was a disjointed mess. As much as I wanted to go against the grain and be someone who liked it, I just didn't happen.

    Nice for you to reference the Katt prom outfit. Didn't pick up on that.

  10. If it helps your grain cred, I have heard a few genre fans who genuinely dig the film. I can see someone enjoying what it tried to do, but I can think of no better description for this film than 'mess.'

    Except for the tux! That was kickin.