One of the most fun theatrical experiences I’ve ever had was seeing Eli Roth’s absurd, intense “Cabin Fever” on opening day in 2002 with two friends who “got it.”
By contrast, “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” bypassed theaters, so the only way I could re-create the experience of the first would be watching at home with a couple of beers. Make that several beers. See, the sequel’s a bit of a mess, only some of it on purpose.
Roth isn’t the director this time, but the flick picks up right where the original left off, with an injured, infected hero Paul (Rider Strong) left to his own devices in the woods. He promptly stumbles in front of a Springfield High school bus and gets turned to road chum, all played for a gag. At the same time, the bottled water company with the virus-contaminated cargo continues rolling into town, to make a delivery at Springfield.
It’s the day of the senior prom, which will be a night to remember … only for all the wrong reasons. Pretty much all the students succumb to the disease, with their corset-pinned bodies turned into oozing, pustule-ridden masses of goo. Good guy John (Noah Segan) tries to guide his unrequited love, Cassie (Alexi Wasser) to safety, which becomes difficult when the government locks the school down and shoots to kill anyone who dare try to escape.
One problem with the film is its lack of likable characters. Segan’s modus operandi is to yell a lot, and Wasser is a bit of a wet blanket, presence-wise. Giuseppe Andrews reprises his comic-relief role as Deputy Winston, but without Roth’s words, he’s not nearly as amusing.
But director Ti West, who claims the finished work belongs more to edit-heavy producers than him, ups the ante on the sick. Whereas Roth’s film was really gross, this one’s unquestionably, absolutely, downright vile. There are a few shots I wish I could unsee, particularly a third-act discharge situation you might expect from an STD scare film. It definitely delivers the unexpected, and succeeds in making the viewer uncomfortable.
Tonally, this follow-up can’t quite match its daddy’s pitch-perfect mix of the horrible and hilarious, although it gets close in its opening sequences. Once the story settles in and the amateurish actors make with the wooden delivery, any semblance is history. If West were aiming for a facsimile of a cheesy, ’80s no-budget gorefest “ in much the same way how his markedly superior “The House of the Devil” apes the ’70s devil-worship genre “ then mission accomplished.
The mopey rock score is all wrong, the animated sequences are cheap, the epilogue is too long by half “ once “Cabin Fever 2″ was over, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. I didn’t hate it, but I sure didn’t love it. After sleeping on it, I’ll file it under the category of “slight admiration with heavy reservations.” On one hand, it goes out of its way to be off-putting; on the other hand, any film that can provoke such a reaction out of faithful horror audiences is doing something right.
Perhaps speaking to West’s disowning of the film, Lionsgate’s disc is light on the extras, which a three-minute compilation of the gore scenes, and a slightly longer behind-the-scenes segment. “Rod Lott