It was 12 years ago now that Eli Roth burst onto all of our radars with the throwback infection flick Cabin Fever, which instantly became a favorite of mine. In fact, out of the over 1,000 horror movies I own in my DVD/Blu-ray collection, Roth’s debut is the one I most often pluck off the shelf and slide into my Playstation 3, as I just have a blast with it every single time I watch it.
Over a decade later, the franchise has just returned with the brand new sequel Patient Zero, following up 2009’s Ti West-directed hot mess known as Spring Fever. Written by Jake Wade Wall and directed by Kaare Andrews, the franchise’s third installment hit select VOD outlets (including Amazon) last month and embarks on a limited theatrical release this Friday, August 1st.
Cabin Fever 3’s sub-title refers to Sean Astin’s character, who is being held in a quarantine facility on a remote Caribbean island, after being exposed to the flesh-eating virus we’re all by now familiar with. Though he was exposed, he appears to be immune to its evil, making him an unwitting lab rat test subject. At the same time, a group of friends travel to the island for a bachelor party, and it’s not long before they become exposed to the very same virus. Cue icky mayhem.
The thing I love so much about Cabin Fever, which keeps bringing me back, is that it’s just plain fun from start to finish. The characters are a blast to hang out with, the dialogue is highly quotable and there are more memorable moments than can be found in the combined efforts of most horror films released in the recent past; this latest sequel included.
Whereas Roth’s film was entertaining from beginning to end, Patient Zero is quite the opposite, managing to do everything wrong that Roth did so very right. The acting is bad, the characters are dull and the entertainment factor all around is pretty damn low. The film comes off more like an utterly generic zombie movie than a document of the decay and bodily destruction of a group of pretty young friends – the latter of which is of course what any fan in his or her right mind is looking for it to be.
There is a silver lining to this dark cloud, however. And that silver lining’s name is Vincent Guastini, the makeup effects artist whose incredible work at least gives us something to look at, amidst all the boredom. More than anything, Patient Zero is a showcase of Guastini’s practical effects wizardry, and he’s without question the star of the show here.
From my vantage point, I didn’t notice a single ounce of computer generated imagery, which is an impressive sight to behold in any horror movie made in this day and age. In a time where CGI has all but replaced practical effects, Guastini is one of the few who’s still practicing the sadly dying art form, and goddamn is he good at making people look absolutely fucking disgusting.
One scene in particular stands out as being the only worthwhile span of time in the entire movie, and it’s unsurprisingly thanks to Guastini’s contributions. Without giving too much away, the scene I’m referring to is a cat fight between two infected chicks, and believe me when I say it’s one you’ll remember when you’re looking back on 2014’s genre offerings.
Unfortunately, even the makeup effects were mishandled, not by Guastini but rather by Andrews. In pretty much all of the film’s gruesome moments, the actors are so dimly lit that it’s hard to even appreciate Guastini’s work, and in fact I really only know how awesome the makeup was in most scenes because I had previously seen behind the scenes shots that showed off the effects in all their well-lit glory.
It’s a damn shame that it’s hard to see them, because the makeup effects are all that’s really worth seeing in this movie. Oh, the irony.
Despite a few standout moments of gruesome silliness, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is a total bore, and worse yet a frustrating waste of some truly impressive makeup effects. My advice? Wait for it to hit Netflix Instant, fast forward to the aforementioned catfight scene and then be done with it. If you’re looking for an outbreak franchise to cuddle up with, go with [REC] instead.