Review: 'Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero' Brings Some Glorious Gore

Cabin Fever: Patient ZeroEach of the “Cabin Fever” films
have thus far been directed by genre filmmakers with a
very specific vision. That may seem like a low bar to set until you
glimpse the history of horror franchise-building. The first “Cabin
Fever” revealed a certain fiendish sense of humor courtesy of
horror merrymaker Eli Roth, who thus far keeps making more and more
of a failed effort to maintain a straight face. “Cabin Fever 2:
Spring Fever
” was a film reportedly compromised in the editing
room, but what footage remained reveled in Ti West‘s more
misanthropic worldview. But, and this is not meant to shade him, only
the talented Kaare Andrews has actually used the material to make an
honest-to-god horror film. The delightfully dumb and spooky “Cabin
Fever: Patient Zero
” is that movie.

The set-up, like the rest of the film,
is familiar: the flesh-eating strain from the first films has been
discovered in the Dominican Republic. Though it’s been quarantined
(by scientists who clearly have little care that a body count is
growing), they fear the condition may not have a lasting cure. At the
same time, they suggest they’ve found the patient zero of this
outbreak: an unassuming family man played by Sean Astin who will now
serve as the staff’s guinea pig. There’s a moral debate to be had as
to whether he needs to be studied, or if he needs the compassion
afforded to a man who has just learned his family has died. ‘Patient
Zero’ refreshingly has no interest having this debate: these
scientists (including a hilariously, inexplicably busty one with a
low-riding top) will sacrifice many for a few.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
At the same time, their island is about
to be visited by a group of hard-partying post-graduates. Writer Jake
Wade Wall
plays with stereotypes a little: the responsible nerdy one
who is marrying into a rich family is also having an affair with the
jock’s girlfriend. Of course, it is more of the same here, all frat
jokes, flirty transgressions, and drugs. The film basically punches
their ticket to doom, and spends its first half punching,
punching, punching even more.

Once they get to the island, Andrew
reveals himself as a real student of the genre. With its shrieking,
paper-thin characters, repetitive score, and relentless, dimly-shot
gore, it reminds one of the late films of Lucio Fulci. For some
horror fans, this is a warning. For others, it’s delightful. There was
real poetry to Fulci’s kitchen-sink approach to horror in his later
years. Faces melted, heads shot across the room, characters suddenly
had guns, swords or any other weapon that could benefit them at a
moment’s notice. More importantly, everyone was expendable. Death
came like a lightning bolt. Fulci didn’t mess around: his final films
were sloppy, but they had an all-killer, no-filler approach to horror
moviemaking. The fact that his craft was so traditionally “off”
contributed to the actual scares. Something wasn’t right, and that
something often raised the hairs on the back of viewers’ necks.
Today, most horror filmmaking looks like a Budweiser commercial.
There’s nothing scary about a well-organized closet.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
Andrews splits the difference, probably
because of the demands of producers reluctant to embrace a nihilistic
approach to nonstop violence that comes close to Dadaism. But it’s still
the sort of approach that hasn’t been seen for years in mainstream horror
filmmaking: ‘Patient Zero’ approaches the tonal “wrongness”
of films like “Nekromantik,” movies that felt like they weren’t
meant to be watched. It’s not the primal “boo” scare most people
conventionally associate with horror films. It’s the sense that you
want to run away from the screen. This film is a mess, and it’s going
to get on you.

Much of the credit must go towards the
makeup crew. It’s a Fangoria funhouse up in here: “Cabin Fever:
Patient Zero” has some of the most disturbing, disgusting gore
effects of all time. This is a movie made by people who have studied
some of the most horrific injuries known to man. Their hours spent parsing
through the very worst alone deserves commendation, never mind the
work in the film. Body parts snap off like twigs. Faces cave in like
ant hills. The first two films felt like a warm-up for the repulsive
grue on display in this film. Again, shades of Fulci’s final films:
he cared little about logic or continuity, but it was of the utmost
importance to him that bodies be absolutely annihilated onscreen.
Yes, the bar has been set low – you’ve got to sit through a lot of
garbage to get to the glorious gore. But this is the finest of the ‘Cabin Fever’ films. If that matters to you, you’re a fool to
miss it. [B-]