Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (US - DVD R1)
Gabe goes back to school for a round with the flesh-eating virus from Hell...
Following the horrific events of Cabin Fever, Paul (Rider Strong) is left to die on the banks of a forest river. His flesh-eating virus infected blood mixes with the water, which is tapped by company that bottles it, and sells it to the local area. Paul wakes up and wanders to the road, where he’s crushed and splattered by a high school bus. Meanwhile, nice guy protagonist John (Noah Segan) asks Cassie (Alexi Wasser), the girl he’s been fawning after since early childhood, to be his prom date, after his friend Dane (Alexander Isaiah Thomas) announces he has a possible date. Though Cassie turns him down, John decides to attend anyway to support Dane. While at the prom John runs into Cassie, who has made up with her abusive ex, much to John chagrin. Unfortunately, the contaminated bottled water finds its way into the punch, and all hell breaks loose.
Eli Roth’s original Cabin Fever mixed comedic and horrific elements pretty evenly, creating a truly original oddball slice of apparently mainstream cinema. Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever is a little less even, and boils down mostly to two acts of jokes, and one act of genuinely disturbing horror imagery. Writer/director Ti West, who so perfectly recreated the look of the early ‘80s in House of the Devil, takes a similar approach here, and mostly runs the idea of referential filmmaking into the ground. Roth made the first film with a clear eye for tribute, but was also sure to modernize and personalize enough of the film to make it connect. The slavishly referential nature Cabin Fever 2 overtakes some of the original film’s kitchen sink humour, and will probably only work for the ridiculously nostalgic member of the audience. The dialogue is a major weakness beyond the silly structure. It kind of captures the inane speech patterns of high school kids, it’s not particularly funny.
The look and occasionally overwhelmingly anachronistic nature (the prom music is just too much, but the animated sequences are a blast) end up being the only reasons to see this sequel, even if they rarely work beyond calling out the reference. I understand that recall is West’s ‘thing’, but it would be great if he moved beyond it. There are enough genuinely bad movies out there that we don’t need more straight faced homage to old bad movies. There’s a great musical montage callback to Carrie that sees characters prepping for their prom night, but later West practically reshoots entire scenes from Brian DePalma’s film (the lead female is named ‘Cassie’, and ends the film with her prom dress drenched in blood). Knowing exactly what West is going for I feel like I should’ve liked the film more, but apparently years of Rob Zombie I’m done with the past being so directly referenced. I kind of liked the almost John Waters like grotesqueries of the last act for their genuine griminess, but I didn’t actually enjoy the experience.
According to the behind the scenes story (which you won’t find on this disc) the film was taken out of West’s hands, and ‘extensively’ reshot and recut by the Lionsgate producers. My guess is that the early acts and goofy anachronistic tones are all West, and the more graphic gore scenes, along with the genuinely unsettling last act horror, was studio interference. It’d be nice to think that the fractured storytelling style is the fault of the recutting process, and that perhaps chunks of narrative and character were left at the wayside, but I’m actually going to assume that this was all part of West’s obsessive post-modern plan. It’s always tragic when a filmmaker’s vision is taken away from him/her, but I’m going out on a limb and assuming that this is a Exorcist: The Beginning versus Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist situation, where both versions are relatively bad, just in different ways.
It’s hard to review new movies on DVD these days after my eyes have adjusted so fully to the quality of Blu-ray, but I think I can safely say that Cabin Fever 2 is not a particularly good transfer based even on the ‘lesser’ format’s abilities. The edges are caked with blocking and enhancement, the details are fuzzy, the blacks are extremely harsh, and the colours are muddied. Of course, based on director Ti West’s House of the Devil, I’m left to assume things look this way on purpose. Imdb.com claims the film was shot on 35mm, but I’m pretty positive this is 16mm stock based on all the grain, the harsh blacks, the yellowing, and the lack of detail. Assuming the look is put together this way on purpose my only real complaint is that of West’s choice of 2.35:1 framing, which is consistently too tight.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack follows the video’s lead, and sounds down-right low tech for the vast majority of the runtime. The dialogue is centered, and the stereo and surround channels feature a share of effects, but the balance errs on the side of analogue. The channels are separated, but mixed and recorded in a flat manner. The dialogue is occasionally distorted on high volume levels, and far from crisp, while the overall bass presence is lumpy, kind of like catalogue releases from the ‘70s. The music, which is probably the most enjoyable element of the film’s purposeful outdating, is also recorded in a purposefully flat manner that only really takes advantage of the stereo channels.
The extra features are far too brief for such a troubled production, including only a reel of all the film’s gorier moments (3:00), and a behind the scenes featurette (12:50) made up of footage from the film, behind the scenes gore and doe-eyed interviews with the cast and crew (no Ti West). Lionsgate trailers close things out.
Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever scores points for sheer grossness, and for a brief appearance by American Movie’s Mark Borchardt, but it’s not going to please most people otherwise. Fans of director Ti West’s brand of referential horror movies will disappointed that his ‘vision’ has been watered down by scissor-handed producers, and fans of the original film will be disappointed in how much this new film doesn’t match it. There’s enough balls-out gore to please the gorehounds in the house, but they’ll probably be put off by the weird tone. Perhaps the film will garner enough of a cult audience that Lionsgate will release a director’s cut some day down the road, at least then we can be sure if the problem is purely West’s. The DVD release features some pretty rough A/V, but this appears to have been done on purpose. The lack of extra features filling out the film’s history is the bigger problem.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 16th February 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Extras: The Making of Gore, Gore Reel, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ti West
Cast: Noah Segan, Alexi Wasser, Alexander Isaiah Thomas, Michael Bowen, Rider Strong, Giuseppe Andrews, Mark Borchardt, Judah Friedlander
Genre: Comedy and Horror
Length: 86 minutes
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