Blu-ray Review: Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

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The original Cabin Fever launched the career of writer-director Eli Roth back in 2002, helping to make him one of the most-recognized names in contemporary horror. The sick humor and undeniable energy that characterized that film are mostly missing in the newly released prequel, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. In fact, the presence of Sean Astin as Porter, the starting point for the flesh-eating infection that terrorizes the inhabitants of Cabin Fever’s world, is about the only distinctive aspect of director Kaare Andrews’ film.

Cabin Fever outside.jpgPatient Zero, as its title suggests, is a disease-outbreak movie that trades mostly on the clichés of that subgenre. Porter is naturally immune to the rapidly fatal illness, therefore he’s being held in quarantine in a medical facility located on a remote island. Astin delivers a much stronger performance than this type of material calls for, committing fully to the role (and infusing the character with a depth missing from the rest of the film). A group of party-hardy, carefree types wind up boating in waters near said remote island. Unsurprisingly, one by one they contract the flesh-decaying infection and eventually their crew meets the medical facility’s crew. For much of the 95-minute running time, it feels like Andrews is simply marking time, waiting a little too patiently to reach the film’s gore-infested climax.

Cabin Fever dark.jpgMost spookily effective moment: a pair of island partiers goes scuba diving and, instead of schools of fish, see nothing but the remains of torn-up aquatic creatures. It doesn’t hurt that one of the divers is played by Jillian Murray (Sonny with a Chance, Wild Things: Foursome) who looks quite delightful in a bikini. A few notably gross-out moments will please genre fans (the decayed-flesh makeup is quite skillfully handled). And a few sight gags might provoke a laugh if you keep your expectations low, including the moment one character takes the terms “earning his red wings” to a whole new level.

Cabin Fever bikini.jpgImage Entertainment’s Blu-ray presentation can’t be faulted. The rather artless digital cinematography of Norm Li is ultra-sharp. Much of the blood and guts displayed on the remote island are spewed in fire-lit darkness, yet fine detail is never wanting. The shots are composed with all the grace and style of a student project, but they all look great. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is also splendid, featuring a surprising amount of surround activity and highlighting a generically bland score by film and video game composer Kevin Riepl.

No special features are included on Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, but the package does at least include a standard DVD.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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