PLOT: Five friends head to a remote cabin for a week of partying. Their plans are thwarted when it becomes gruesomely obvious a flesh-eating virus has infected the surrounding area, with the small group likely next on the menu.
REVIEW: The rumors are true. They went ahead and remade CABIN FEVER practically line for line, with the blessing of Eli Roth. And just as it appeared when it was first announced, there's still no discernible answer to the question, "Why was this made?" It's essentially the same movie, with a few negligible differences, but none that make the greater whole worth the trouble. Overall, Travis Zariwny's passable but thoroughly unnecessary remake of Roth's cult classic might be of interest for folks who aren't familiar with the original, but those of us who've seen Roth's movie will find very little of note here.
Even the one thing that would have potentially made the remake intriguing turns out to be a falsity. The press release originally sent out for the movie touted "ingenious new deaths," but that's really not true. Almost every character's death is the same as in Roth's film. They might be tweaked a little, but if you've seen the first one you know who will die and how, more or less. Hence, even the remake's one supposed novelty proves to be a letdown.
The story, as it was the first time around, is quite simple. Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods to drink the week away. These characters aren't given much depth; we know the bare minimum about them. Paul (Samuel Davis) is secretly in love with his longtime friend, pretty blond Karen (Gage Golightly). Jeff (Matthew Daddario) and Marcy (Nadine Crocker) are really into each other and screw as soon as they arrive at their destination. That leaves snarky Bert (Dustin Ingram), a beer-obsessed dope who adds little to the conversation other than sardonic commentary. Soon after they settle down, the gang is confronted by a melting, disease-infected hermit (Randy Schulman) who begs for help, but is angrily rebuffed by Bert and soon the rest of the group when he tries to steal their car. They end up setting the poor guy on fire (!) and struggle to figure out their next move... and then the disease starts getting to them too.
The first of the group to catch the fever is sweet Marcy, who is promptly moved to the woodshed for quarantine while the group figures out what to do. Lines are divided: Jeff becomes a paranoid jerk afraid to commune with the others; Paul tries to keep his head about him while the others crack up. Not helping matters is a ravenous dog lurking along the periphery of their camp, threatening to make corpses out of them before the infection gets a chance to. The locals won't be much help, either, because they're all batshit crazy.
Simply in terms of quality, the CABIN FEVER remake is serviceable. The gore effects are well handled, although there was something a little grosser about the splatter in Roth's film. The performances are all fine, although no one really stands out. (Gage Golightly is a helluva screamer though.) It's a professionally-made affair, but that doesn't exactly help it: If anything, the somewhat rough, do-it-yourself look and feel of Roth's movie made it a more engaging viewing experience.
The tone is more serious than Roth's darkly comic original; that film felt a bit audacious and smart-alecky, while this one mostly plays it straight. (Don't go looking for that very politically incorrect storeowner's gun joke.) The most amusing sequence involves a deputy named Winston, a creepy, leering cop who sniffs around and has an overwhelming predilection for partying. Here the character is a woman (it's the only character in the film who has been overtly altered) and she's slickly played by Louise Linton. The movie throws in a few oddball townsfolk that provide color, but their appearances are fleeting.
If I've referenced the original too often, I think that was unavoidable. If you've seen the original, it'll be on your mind from start to finish as you watch a lesser rendition play out. If you've not seen it, this movie will provide you with tolerable but unexceptional 98 minutes. Either way, CABIN FEVER hasn't given us any indication that its existence is warranted.