(US - 2016)
Directed by Travis Z. Written by Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein. Cast: Gage Golightly, Matthew Daddario, Samuel Davis, Nadine Crocker, Dustin Ingram, Louise Linton, Timothy G. Zajaros, Randy Schulman, Derrick Means, Teresa Decher. (Unrated, 98 mins)
Regardless of your stance on him and his significance to today's horror scene, there's no denying Eli Roth enthusiastically wears his love of cult horror cinema on his sleeve. Adored by horror fanboys but sometimes dismissed by purists, Roth has a tendency to let his juvenile sense of humor undermine his credibility, but his HOSTEL PART II did a great job of paying homage to '70s Italian thrillers, right down to his successfully luring both Edwige Fenech and Luc Merenda out of retirement for small roles. In addition, KNOCK KNOCK, his recent update of the 1977 home invasion sexploitationer DEATH GAME, was surprisingly engaging, and the gorefest THE GREEN INFERNO, his SJW take on the Italian cannibal films of Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi, had its positives when his dudebro humor wasn't getting in the way. But by producing and giving his seal of approval to CABIN FEVER, a not-quite-but-pretty-damn-near scene-for-scene remake of his own 2003 debut, with directing duties handed off to veteran B-movie production designer/set decorator-turned-filmmaker Travis Zariwny under his new convention-ready, cool-guy moniker "Travis Z," Roth finally, at long last, pays loving tribute to the most important and influential cult horror movie figure in his life: Eli Roth.
CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO. I could see if CABIN FEVER '03 was a foreign language film and maybe some producer thought an American remake had potential, but it's not even a decade and a half old and we've got a remake of CABIN FEVER? And not only is Roth just one of the truckload of credited producers, but the remake even uses the same script he co-wrote with Randy Pearlstein. Sure, Travis Z--a name more suited for the showboating bassist in a C-grade, circa 2002 Linkin Park knockoff that never made it beyond the club circuit--claims he whittled Roth's script down from 122 pages to 94, but somehow, the new CABIN FEVER is slower, feels much longer than 98 minutes (the exact running time of Roth's director's cut of the 2003 version), and has no sense of pacing whatsoever. Travis Z also jettisons almost all of the humor in Roth's original script, with the exception of bite-happy, "Pancakes!"-shouting Dennis, but even in Dennis' new incarnation (played by Derrick Means), his antics have been toned down significantly, and there isn't even a "Please Don't Sit Next to Dennis" sign. In an apparent concession to Generation Trigger Warning, Travis Z has also dumped the racist commentary of the general store cashier that had a legitimately funny payoff at the end. Roth and Pearlstein started writing their CABIN FEVER script when they were roommates at NYU in 1995. Though it was another seven years before they actually made the movie, the script is very much the work of young, dumb college guys who have a lot of growing up to do. CABIN FEVER '03 had a lot of problems, but it delivered the grisly gore and had enough of an oddball aura to it that it remains the one Roth film where his immaturity wasn't problematic. In nearly every way, it's an obvious first movie.