US (dir. Ti West)
Cast: Rider Strong, Noah Segan, Alexander Isaiah Thomas, Giuseppe Andrews, Alexi Wasser, Regan Deal
Synopsis: A high school prom faces a deadly threat: a flesh-eating virus that spreads via a popular brand of bottled water.
Review: To make a sequel to a film that was released six years prior is sort of a risky affair. Will anyone remember the original film? Will there still be an audience willing to sit through a sequel? Is the franchise relevant anymore? “The Evil Dead” managed to spawn a successful sequel, “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn”, after a six year gap, but is a “Cabin Fever” sequel necessary or relevant? Could it be entertaining, or better than the first? Oh yes, yes, yes.
I was originally put off by the fact that Eli Roth wasn’t involved in the sequel, and a new director, Ti West, who I will discuss later on, was appointed. I felt that “Cabin Fever” was a fantastic, darkly comedic first time feature film effort by Roth. It had a fairly standard setup involving college kids on vacation, with a gloriously disgusting development involving the spread of a flesh-eating virus via water. It was generally well done and a fairly impressive attempt by a first time director. My only issue with “Cabin Fever” was that it mashed comedy with scattered forays into serious territory far too often, making me wish they stuck to one approach over the other. “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” gets it just right by sticking to flat out dark humor, crass sexual comedy, and splattery body horrors.
“Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” picks up almost exactly at the last few moments of “Cabin Fever”. The infected water of the kooky, slightly backwards, boondocks town is being trucked out to the townspeople and apparently, Rider Strong, the hero character from “Cabin Fever”, managed to survive (even though he was shown to be face down, dead, in a lake in the ending of the first film) and tries making it out of the woods only to end up being struck and killed (more like splattered really) by a school bus as part of the film’s title sequence. It’s quite gross, and a good precursor for what’s to come – because things get even nastier.
The refreshingly original setup in this movie (prom night at a high school in a slightly hick town) is one of its strong points and the actors (Marc Senter, Giuseppe Andrews, Noah Segan) make the film a worthwhile watch. During the prom night festivities, infected water begins taking its toll on the high school students until some unnamed and unseen military force crashes the prom and basically “quarantines” everyone the safe way – with death. The film has a fairly continuous flow that is mildly marred by some questionably editing and a go nowhere subplot involving Giuseppe Andrews’ kooky town deputy character trying to evade an unnamed military force which may or may not have anything to do with that weird hospital scene in the original “Cabin Fever”. Another disruption in the film (although whether this will bother you or not is purely subjective) is the fact that the film has no real ending per say. The hero male character (played by horror babe Noah Segan, who you may remember as the bad guy from “Deadgirl”) ends up infected and virtually left for dead, while the final girl (a dead ringer for Sissy Spacek) just sort of rides off with the town deputy to what is, presumably, the state line or the outskirts of town (although this plan is never really discussed, and the girl just basically jumps into the deputy’s pickup truck – sort of like the ending in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” but not as nail-bitingly tense). And instead of a flash forward ending showing what happens to the characters who may or may not have survived the prom night massacre, we get a “meanwhile, back in some random strip bar” ending where a fairly minor character (Noah Segan’s memorable best friends’ “girlfriend”) is shown working as a stripper and spreading her STD-like infection to a plethora of customers and co-workers, which leads to an unnecessary cartoon montage of the disease spreading to Mexico via two strip bar patrons who happened to catch the fever. I was also peeved that they had another instance involving the appearance of some mysterious, unrevealed person in a bunny suit (a la “Cabin Fever”) and they once again failed to reveal their identity (at least this time the bunny can be assumed to be a school mascot, whereas in “Cabin Fever” it was just a… guy in a bunny suit… randomly standing in a hospital…).
While in “Cabin Fever” the illness caught by the vacationing students was more or less an allegory for revealing one’s dark side and releasing pent up emotions (best exemplified with Rider Strong’s sexual frustration throughout the whole movie and his rage towards being rejected by his “just a friend” female friend) “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” is more or less an allegory for STDs, their disturbing effects on the human body’s sexual parts and the repercussions for teenagers engaging in casual sex. I wasn’t really exaggerating about the body horrors and the gross-out, splattery, content. This movie delivers. You get people puking up blood on each other, a penis ejaculating pus, a premature birthing, Marc Senter wailing on some guys head with a fire extinguisher, teeth and nails spontaneously falling out, and even a scene where a disgruntled school janitor pisses blood into a bowl of punch for the prom snack table! Delightful! And to balance off all the gross-out scenes, you get two delicious guys to stare at (Marc Senter and Noah Segan)
As mentioned previously, Ti West was the Eli Roth replacement in this film. Dare I say, he actually does a better job than Eli Roth. After seeing his debut film, “The House of the Devil” and now, “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” (a lowly DTV sequel), I can definitely see this guy is one talented maniac who can comfortably work with, and creatively shape, whatever material lands on his plate. Unfortunately, Ti West didn’t really feel the same way about “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” as I do and has basically disowned the film, alleging that the producers took over his directorial rights. Whether or not that is true is not for me to decide, but judging by the mild disruptions present in the film (and the lack of a coherent ending) there is evidence enough to suggest that there was a lot more of Ti West’s influence that was cut out of the film, and that’s just plain sad. On a positive note, the film is still incredibly solid despite it all and I definitely think it’s worth a look, or two, or three. In fact, this is one of the few films where I may actually enjoy watching the sequel for the third or fourth time before I re-watch the original.