Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

*1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"People keep talking about saving others for whom there is so obviously no hope that all the tension haemorrhages out of the slender narrative."

A group of scantily clad young people. A remote tropical island. A deadly flesh eating virus. What could possibly go wrong? In the case of Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, far too much and not nearly enough.

In 2002, Eli Roth broke new ground with his gorily inventive Cabin Fever, in which a group of friends holidaying in a remote cabin are afflicted by a lurid disease. With quirky supporting characters and a rich vein of black humour, the film was impressive in its ability to build an entertaining narrative out of an all too believable scenario which, in lesser hands, would simply have been depressing. In this second sequel (following the less successful Spring Fever), the story has been stripped right down to the basics and (with the possible exception of a misjudged joke about menstruation and oral sex) there's no attempt at humour. We follow a stag weekend party on a trip to the aforementioned island, which also happens to host a secret experimental station where the only man known to be immune to the virus is being subjected to tests - and, though he knows he's a carrier, is determined to escape captivity.

Copy picture

There's not a great deal more to it. There's no easy escape route, of course, because our heroes were dropped off, to be picked up later. Mobile phones are no help so far from civilisation. There are tantalising hints of a cure, but can it be obtained in time? Too quickly, we are left wondering what the effort is in aid of. It isn't just about disfigurement this time (though there's plenty of that). People keep talking about saving others for whom there is so obviously no hope that all the tension haemorrhages out of the slender narrative.

In an attempt to plaster over these problems, we get the subsidiary plotlines now obligatory in this type of horror: a hint of megalomania here, a conspiracy there. It seems the scriptwriters felt a human villain was essential because they struggled to represent the threat posed by a foe that might only be seen with a microscope. Everything is laid on thick, from the atmosphere of gloom that often makes it hard to tell who's who, to the visual grotesquerie which extends to lab conditions that would immediately render any experimental results meaningless. The actors don't do much to help, being uniformly bland, and this weakens an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of crumbling friendships that worked so well in the original film. Here, this hinges on the presence of a young woman who is "basically one of the guys anyway" (we see no evidence of this) and is dating the brother of the groom, having slept with the groom in the past. It's not clear that viewers (who are, after all, electing to watch a film about necrotising fasciitis) will be as shocked by this as the narrative demands, and it's about as much depth as we get.

The very end of the film goes a little way toward redeeming it, with a nice nod to previous instalments and also to a certain Fulci film. It's followed by a painfully obvious explanatory scene that runs over the credits, but at least this has the virtue of being accidentally funny. It's a shame the rst is so straight-faced, ultimately delivering nothing but a watered-down version of what we've seen before.

Reviewed on: 08 Jun 2014
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A stag cruise leads a group of friends to stumble on a research facility... unleasing a deadly virus.

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