CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO
RELEASE DATE: 6/26/14 on VOD, 8/1/14 in theaters and on iTunes
WRITTEN BY: Jake Wade Wall
DIRECTED BY: Kaare Andrews
STARRING: Sean Astin, Currie Graham, Ryan Donowho, Brando Eaton, Jillian Murray, Mitch Ryan, Solly Duran, Lydia Hearsy
Review & Interview by Daniel XIII.
“Does this look infected?”
Your ol’ pal (well, I guess for the readers here at Famous Monsters I’m your new pal, seeing as this is my first review here!) Daniel XIII really digs a flick that piles on the gore, a preference that has existed in me since the glory days of 80’s splatter shockers; so any new release that harkens back to those more extreme, over-the-top days of gallons o’ grue is always welcome in the crypt of XIII.
To that end, when the original CABIN FEVER—a cross between the EVIL DEAD and STREET TRASH directed by genre stalwart Eli Roth (HOSTEL 1 and 2, GREEN INFERNO) in his directing debut—made the scene in 2002, I knew I had to check it out.
After viewing the film, I found it to be a satisfying call back to my misspent youth parked in front of the floor model Zenith watching grainy third generation VHS tapes of some of the gnarliest, nastiest, grindhouseiest (trust me, it’s a word) garbage I could get my fevered lil’ claws on. Was the story tight? Nope, but it was fun, as we were treated to a nasty flesh eating virus working its way through a gang of teens staying in… wait for it… a cabin. Was the acting great? Nope, but it was good enough (and in some places off-kilter enough). Was it boring? Hell no! And it was messier than a no-armed man in a rib eating contest.
When the inevitable sequel came our way in 2009 (after sittin’ on the shelf longer than a can of dollar store chili), I gave that a shot as well. Directed by Ti West (kind of… lots and lots of studio butt-inery on that one), the film continued on in the tradition of the first: ridiculously paper thin characters, tons o’ blood, and a tried and true setting for mayhem to ensue—the high school prom! While critics, fans, and the director himself hated the final product, I kinda dug that one too.
Well that’s about 300 words or so, I guess my work here is done… Hold on, my phone is ringing. Be right back…
Well, that was the top brass here at Famous Monsters, and apparently there’s some sort of clause in the contract I signed when I entered into this arrangement with the specter of ol’ Fearsome Forry that I actually have to review the films I watch or else I will be banished to a nether realm with only the films of Katherine Heigl as entertainment, and since that would be akin to suicide with a spoon…
How about that CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, huh?
Before we get to my rivetin’ review, I feel that I should present you ghouls with my highly detailed and extensive list of what I look for in a fright film, just so we are on the same page:
1. I feel the biggest crime a film can commit is being boring (dialogue, story). Nearly everything else can be really, really poor and it won’t affect my opinion as long as in some way I am entertained.
2. I love effects. The more, the better, and if they are mostly practical, you will win a lot of points.
That’s really it. I mean, if you want to throw an attractive lady or two in there, that never hurts. Did I mention “XIII” isn’t just my last name, it’s also the age I never matured past?
With these criteria in mind, let’s tear into the putrid party that is CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO!
Our story opens deep within a remote research laboratory, where Porter (played by an unrecognizable Sean Astin), AKA Patient Zero of the dreaded disease that terrorized the folks in the first two films (both of which are mentioned only once in the film in a near throwaway line of dialogue) is being quarantined by a crack team lead by two female scientists and a dude that reminds me of Wil Wheaton. Before you know it, the flesh meltin’ super flu is loose within the facility. I wonder how this will impact the folks we are about to meet next?
From there, our terror tale moves to a group of young folks gathered on a secluded, uninhabited, exotic island for an extended bachelor party. These folks fit the standard horror film archetype: good looking, annoying (but not so annoying that you completely hate them) 20-somethings who love drinkin’, druggin’ and, er, special huggin’. But guess what, dear readers? That’s right—the island is indeed inhabited, as that research facility I mentioned earlier is located right on the island (which is good because it would have been really disappointing to just watch those kids party for 94 minutes). Speaking of minutes, the first 30 or so minutes of this film are relatively bloodless, which can sometimes be a warning sign that things will remain low-key, but I hedged my bets that this would not be the case with the third film in a series renowned for its stomach churning effects.
Of course, our young friends are soon infected after some of the group takes a dip in virus-infected waters, and then the fluids get a-flyin’, making it pretty much anything goes for the next 60 minutes. You get volumes of vomit, buckets o’ blood, and one hell of a knockdown, drag-out fight that culminates with the use of a shockingly large sex toy (honestly, this sequence alone is worth the price of admission). And the best part? This stuff was achieved the old fashioned way, with hand-crafted practical effects!
To sum up, director Kaare Andrews (who also is a top notch illustrator for Marvel Comics) has crafted a rollickin’, retch-filled romp of a film that I really enjoyed! I’ll do my part to further the spread of the infection by sending you here to pick up a copy of the film for your creepy little selves! If you want a rating, how about 3 and a half skulls smashed to pieces by an obsidian rubber phallus out of 5?
Hmmm, that went pretty well… wait a minute. You’re still here… What’s that you say? You want more from the ol’ Ouija Board Kid? Let’s see, what can I do for you faithful fiends? I know—how about I just get the director of CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, Kaare Andrews, on the patented Daniel XIII Horror Horn and get him to tell you a little bit more about the film!
Famous Monsters. Greetings, Kaare! Let’s dive right into the subject at hand: how did you come to direct the third feature in the Cabin Fever franchise, and what sort of challenges did you face with adhering to what had come before?
Karre Andrews. Well, the first part of that question is simple. The writer had written the script with the producer, Evan Astrowsky, and I had the same agent as the writer, so when it was done, my agent put me up for the job, I had a small conversation with the producer. I think I gave him one page of written ideas with my response to the script, and we just went from there, off to the job and right into it.
The challenges, though, were immediate and intense. To be honest, I didn’t even know if I was going to read the script, because you get sent CABIN FEVER 3, and it comes so loaded; that first movie was such a cult hit, so successful, and I followed the whole process of it getting made, and sold and released, it was kind of this fairy-tale story of young filmmakers doing good. I really enjoyed the movie; I saw it in theaters and I bought the DVD and I enjoyed all of the special features. The second movie though, I didn’t even watch because I heard such crazy things about it and now when you talk to any of the people involved they all kind of feel awkward about that situation. There was a lot of disappointment, not just from the filmmakers, but from the audience as well. So how do you get into that situation—not only following up a cult hit, but following up the sequel to that cult hit, which was kind of a disaster? That’s sort of a weird situation to be in, and the only thing I could come up with is you just have to do it with abandon. The thing that I think really helped is that even though we were the third film, we weren’t number three in the series. So we are a standalone film in a different world that deals with the same viru, in new and different ways, with new and different characters. I really wanted to make my mark—the slow-motion, the haz-mat suits, the barking dogs… it really was its own experience, and I tried not to let either the success or failures of the other two movies influence my filming.
FM. When I watched the film, it really brought to mind not only classic island Italian gut-munchers like Mattei’s HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and Girolami’s ZOMBI HOLOCAUST, but also extreme splatter fare such as Muro’s STREET TRASH, both in tone as well as content. Are you fan of such features, or was this film your first experience with this kind of grue?
KA. Well, I am a childhood fan of special makeup effects. I grew up reading books like Dick Smith’s MONSTER MAKE-UP HANDBOOK, and Tom Savini’s BIZZARO, which is now called GRANDE ILLUSIONS I believe, and I used to do a lot of makeup on myself. I’ve even done a life cast. I’ve sculpted prosthetics. I love that stuff! Iused to give book reports as a kid on stop-motion animation and matte paintings and all that kind of stuff. For me, this was a chance to have a little callback to some of the guys I grew up loving as a kid—guys like Tom Savini or Dick Smith or even Rob Bottin or Stan Winston… these were guys who were rock stars in their day, and have been kind of replaced temporarily with CG effects. I viewed this film as a chance to design prosthetics, get everything real, have blood and gore and flesh. I really enjoyed working with Vincent Guastini, and I think he did a great job! You know, we didn’t have a lot of money; we had in fact very little money, but with the money we had, Vincent was able to pull off a lot. It was a lot of fun to shoot things like the “flesh lust cat fight”… never seen before!
FM. I do want to say how much I loved the fact the effects were practical and hand-crafted. It was all beautiful work!
KA. I love CG, but I think gore in particular really looks better when it’s practical. Maybe you can do some things digitally, like some mesh-warping or erase some wires or smooth out the patches, enhance some of the blood work. But I think gore works best when it is practical and when it’s made by hand.
FM. Changing gears a lil’ bit, some of our readers may not realize that you are a well-known comic book illustrator and writer as well as a director. How did you make the transition from comics to film?
KA. Well, when I was kid, I didn’t really see any difference between comic books and movies and video games and toys. They were all the same thing, and as I got older, people were like “Oh no, these are different things… you can only do one of them.” I was like “Oh, ok… comic books.” And as soon as I started working in comic books, I moved to Vancouver. I’m here in Canada, and I wanted to do more than one thing! Why can I only do one thing? I started making short films and writing scripts and eventually just built up my filmmaking career, which is completely separate from my comic book career, so I did not attempt to trade-in or trade-up from my comic book work to my filmmaking work. I’m in a much younger place in my filmmaking career; in comic books I’ve been established for quite a while and I can do what I want to do for the most part. I can write and draw a book like IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON [Ed. Note: In comic stores right now!] and own that process completely, whereas in film I’ve only made a couple of movies and I haven’t yet worked myself up to a position where I can own the process completely.
There are some overlapping skills. I look at it like a policeman and a fireman. A cop can do a lot of the things a firefighter does, but those are completely different jobs, with completely different skill sets. So I use my visual art making abilities a lot when I do filmmaking; I draw my own boards, I do my own designs, I communicate through drawings… but directing is a different skill set than comic books, and I treat it as such. But I don’t look at the world in boxes anymore. I view art making in general as just one thing, and even though they are all different muscles, when I’m making a comic book I feel the same as when I’m making a movie. It’s just a movement of art, just a style of creating.
FM. You were involved in the first ABCS OF DEATH feature with your amazing sci-fi spectacle “V is for Vagitus”. To me, it seems like there is plenty of story there left to explore. Do you have any plans to do more in that universe?
KA. Well, the funny thing about that short is that one of the producers jokingly accused me of just making a trailer for a movie, but it’s not true! When I did that short for ABCS OF DEATH, I had just had a movie fall apart that I was working on for a couple years, and I had all of this pent up feature energy. I was just like “Fine! What am I going to do with all this energy?” I was asked to do a short for ABCS OF DEATH and I was like “Here we go!”, and I think my segment feels more like a feature film because it had all the feature energy built up. It was not intended to generate a spin-off or feature film; but having said that, because I did exactly what I wanted to do and exactly what I loved—robots, Sci-Fi, action, genetic mutations—I would love to do a feature version of that thing now that it’s finished because again, it was made up of the things I love.
FM. Finally, do you have anything on the horizon you’d like to tell our fiendish fans about?
KA. Well, like I said, right now I am writing, penciling, inking, and coloring a book for Marvel Comics called IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON, and three issues have come out. It’s going to be twelve issues in total for the first “season”. It’s a cool project that combines horror, martial arts, Sci-Fi, and action in a new way that is both kind of a callback to the comics of the 80s and a new deal unto its own. Concurrently, strangely enough, I also have a feature that I have been developing in that same wheelhouse of super extreme martial arts…I call it “What if BLADE RUNNER was a ninja movie set in the present day without any ninjas?” [laughs] Basically hyper-noir, hyper-stylized, hyper-action… intense, physical, visual filmmaking. It’s in the early stages, but that should be my next movie if everything goes according to plan.
OK creeps, that’s it for ol’ Daniel XIII this time, see ya soon and stay spooky!
Daniel XIII is the result of a strange ritual involving a KISS tape, a box of Count Chocula, and a dog-eared copy of Penthouse. Come, stare into the preternatural gaze of The Ouija Board Kid!