PLOT: While celebrating a bachelor party on a supposedly deserted island, four friends come in contact with the very first carrier of a nasty flesh-eating outbreak.
REVIEW: Well goddamn! After the utterly atrocious CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER angrily lowered the bar of Eli Roth's original, I'm here to tell you that the third entry in the ad hoc franchise, PATIENT ZERO, is not only a pleasant surprise...but a splendidly sordid soiree of summertime slaughter! Granted, it hasn't the tone-deaf hilarity of the original, but if you're looking for an unremitting gore-fest that actually boasts an engaging, well enough told story and a somewhat satisfying snap-twist ending...PATIENT ZERO is worthy of admitting. Perhaps it was the basement expectations of not just SPRING FEVER, but remake writer Jake Wade Wall (THE HITCHER, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS) and director Kaare Andrews (ALTITUDE) running the show, that has inflated my overall sense of the movie. But to be fair, regardless of expectation, I think the filmmakers have acquitted themselves pretty well here. Is it a great movie? Not close. But for a potential throwaway third entry in a low-budget horror franchise...PATIENT ZERO is pretty f*cking ill!
The flick kicks-off in a dark and dank subterranean medical lab somewhere unspecified. There we find a heavily bearded Sean Astin, hiding either the middle-aged bloat or the embarrassment of being in a 3rd horror sequel. All japing withheld, Astin brings immediate credibility to a movie he's probably too good for, which must instantly set the standard for everyone else involved...in front of and behind the camera. Dude's a film biz lifer! Donning a bright orange jumper, we note that Astin, or Porter as he's characterized as, is a human lab rat who's been subjected to a battery of medical tests for the past two months. His young son is dead, his wife back home or possibly dead as well. Dr. Edwards (Currie Graham), a slimy power-hungry white-coat, speaks glowingly of Porter's so called immunity to the familiar flesh-eating virus and the importance of his underground quarantine...completely cutoff from the rest of the world. Okay, but we can tell that's only half the story. We then cut to a sunny beachfront, where we meet our ostensible heroes. Marcus, the groom to be, is fin to have one last taste of the single life. His brother Josh (Brando Eaton) and pals Penny (Jillian Murray) and Dobbs (Ryan Donowho) whisk the foursome out on the ocean for a little R&R, away from the uptight bride to be and her snooty family. Time to crack the brews, roll the doobs, hoist the sail and steer the goddamned boat toward a deserted island!
You should already know what comes next. That is, until you don't! The two-cross cut parties are on collision course that sets off a predestined pandemic of pure hell! Once ported, the boozy foursome soon finds itself in contact with the rare flesh-eating virus that has ravaged the island. The waters are toxic, the medical lab close by where the good Doc and his greasy minions experiment. Shit grows afoul in a quick hurry. First goes Penny, who becomes exposed to the virus after splashing around in the contaminated surf. Those familiar with the CABIN FEVER flicks know what this entails. Bruises, sores and lesions rapidly advance into melting, masticated skin and nastily putrefied body parts. PATIENT ZERO is rich in such high-gross-out plasma, highlighted by a late moonlit cat-fight on the beach between two infected, gore-sodden hotties. Grossly gratuitous, sure, but damn did I love this scene! How often do you see a really good catfight anymore? Well, imagine two blood-soaked bitches hashing it out under a full-moon, their huge titties liquefying with each feebly thrown punch. F*cking fantastic!
Believe it or not though, what I liked most about the PATIENT ZERO was the third act. Trust me, I know this is typically where almost every other horror film shits the bed entirely. Seriously, how many times have you seen a promising horror joint completely peter out by the third reel? Too many, right? Well, I'm here to say that PATIENT ZERO actually grows stronger as the runtime unfolds. Part of this has to do with the unforeseen nature of the films resolution, which comes as a total contrast to the rather boilerplate setup. In other words, in the beginning we know the two storylines are bound to converge...the lab scenes and the bachelor-partiers. Which is fine, we look forward to it. But then, as the action-packed mayhem ramps-up, a chain of events unfolds that I really didn't see coming. Granted, the CABIN FEVER films aren't really known for twist endings, so I wasn't keeping my guard up for such. And maybe now that I'm telling you about it, it will cease to be as effective as it was on me. But again, in a time where so many horror movies abjectly fail to nail the ending, I thought what PATIENT ZERO did was not only delightfully off-balance, but could possibly setup a sequel in a way that feels more or less germane to the entire franchise. It doesn't feel as cheap, cynical and unnecessary as most movies that perpetuate sequels through a cliffhanger ending. This one actually make sense.
But if I'm painting PATIENT ZERO as the greatest thing since shaved pussy...slow your roll. It's certainly a fun, competent horror sequel, but let's not get crazy. The acting, outside of Astin, is uneven at best...shoddy at worst. Actually, there are such minor, nuanced inconsistencies in the performances, that you can almost tell which shooting days were broken up as such. For instance, once we get to the island, we can instantly tell by the tone of the actors that the scene was filmed at a different time than the boat scenes. No shock there, most scenes are filmed at different times. But you're not supposed to be able to tell. In terms of acting, the transitions from scene to scene aren't very smooth. Same thing when the night falls, you can tell by the edit how disjointed the performances are. Perhaps the whole film would have been better off had Andrews shot in chronological order, so that the relatively inexperienced cast could build a stronger consistency. All that to say, so what! This is a third horror sequel in a middling horror franchise...do you really expect Olivier type of dramaturgy? Hell no. What we expect is an entertaining 90 minutes of over-the-top bloodletting punctuated by an engrossing story. In that regard, PATIENT ZERO delivers!
So yeah, I'm definitely recommending CABIN FEVER 3: PATIENT ZERO. I don' think it was the low expectations, or the comparison to the two awful movies I reviewed prior (ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE, SX_TAPE), or even the amount of THC in my system upon viewing it...I believe I actually enjoyed the flick based on its own merits. In terms of the gore and grue we've come to expect in the CABIN FEVER series, PATIENT ZERO isn't fucking around. It's drenched in sticky blood, rotting guts and desecrated entrails. But more importantly, in order to make those violent scenes actually mean something, there needs to be a well enough told story to keep the viewer engaged and entertained. Thankfully, and somewhat surprisingly, despite some highly dubious acting and dialogue, PATIENT ZERO is certainly sicker than first thought. Catch it for yourself and report back!