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 clich├ęs 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 writes for The Morton Report.

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