In the heart of the horror fan, hope often springs eternal. For every enthusiast bemoaning the latest remake, there’s an idiot like me expecting that maybe, just maybe, the latest entry into a franchise might be good. Perhaps those tasked with rebooting a franchise or adding to the existing canon with a needless sequel might look upon the task as an opportunity to do something worthy of the genre and their talents. Which brings us to Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, a film of which no one should be proud, a film I was, against all reason, optimistic about. The implication of the title is that we travel back to see the origins of the flesh-eating virus, and the remote laboratory on a tropical island has plenty of room for claustrophobic, virus-related scares. The reality is a movie that I can only explain by saying it feels like it was written and directed by filmmakers who knew the Cabin Fever story by way of a game of telephone played by autistic children.
So, Porter (Sean Astin) is being held at the above mentioned research laboratory, studied for his ability to carry the flesh-eating virus and remain asymptomatic. Clearly having no sense of the danger he poses, Porter throws his blood around all willy-nilly, which unleashes the virus on the staff of the facility.
Meanwhile, a bunch of really unlikable people, who refer to each other as “bro” a bit too much for my tastes and find over-sized dildos hilarious, are sailing north on a rented yacht to celebrate the impending nuptials of the one who is least unlikable. Also in tow is the token bikini-clad girl, ostensibly an old chum who grew up to be ridiculously hot and now dates the brother of the less unlikable groom-to-be.
These awful people are dropped off on the shores of the remote island for a night of drinking and debauchery in what seems like the shittiest bachelor party of all time. When the model-pretty friend and her manchild significant other go diving, they come across a bunch of dead fish that appear to be victims of the virus and pretty soon the pretty gal pal is developing blisters and generally turning gross.
The rest of the fancy lads set out for the research facility (which they have been told is abandoned) to find a way to communicate with the mainland and secure help for their friend.
Once inside, they realize the secret laboratory is far from empty and is, instead, infested by virus-carrying monstrosities. I don’t recall if this was a thing in Cabin Fever 2, but here the virus makes people develop crappy prosthetics and act very zombie-like. Along the way, a bunch more people get infected and start bleeding from their noses and some of the researchers we met in the beginning show up to show off how they’ve been rotting for a while. By the end, only Porter and the groom-to-be and one of the pretty staff members make it off the island. But wait! There’s a twist! Turns out Samwise Gamgee poisoned the lab lady and the least unlikable awful young adult so he could disappear back into society, free to contaminate others, I guess. I never understood Samwise’s endgame. He’s aware his blood could cause a global pandemic, right? And he’s more obsessed with getting free because… script, I guess? Ugh, why do I bother trying to figure out motivations with this thing.
Basically, the writing is horrible. I don’t understand why there are virus zombies, everyone talks to each other like they’re reciting excerpts from half-literate Tweets, and people will literally change character goals in the same scene. For example, at one point, one awful young bro tries to deflect blame by getting the horrible brothers to fight with one another. Once they do, he starts telling them they don’t have time for all this arguing. But… he just… started it… My head’s starting to hurt. This is the worst first-draft nonsense I’ve seen in a movie in a while. And don’t get me started on the rotting girl-on-girl catfight we have on the beach for no reason.
Writer Jake Wade Wall is also responsible for the remake scripts of The Hitcher and When a Stranger Calls, but he’s found new ways to be terrible with this film. Director Kaare Andrews acquits himself slightly better, but it’s hard to polish this particular turd of a script, and he’s not helped by his actors. I don’t know if it was Kaare’s decision or his producers, but another thing that really chapped me about this pile is the attractiveness of every single person in the film. From the scientists to the kids to the parents… everyone is so goddamned pretty it’s distracting. Give me at least one obese character, or someone with a club foot. Someone that doesn’t look like they cam e from a J. Crew audition.
The big takeaway, folks, is this. If you liked Cabin Fever, even a little, this movie has almost nothing to do with why you liked it. It’s badly-written tripe that makes the genre look bad for its existence. I feel more passionate in my disgust at what the filmmakers tried to pass off as a film than the director and writer evidenced in any frame of this movie. Cabin Fever: Patient Zero displays a level of disrespect for its viewers that has put both Kaare Andrews and Jake Wade Wall squarely on my radar as creators to avoid, just as you, dear readers, should avoid this cinematic garbage.