While scrolling through Netflix recently for a late-night horror fix I discovered the Cabin Fever (2016) remake. It’s a film that flew completely under my radar. Rather than watching the remake first I decided to pull out my copy of the original Cabin Fever. It’s been sixteen years since Eli Roth emerged on the horror scene. His tale of five college students ravaged by a flesh-eating virus in a remote cabin was a minor hit. No one would ever mistake Cabin Fever for a horror classic, but it makes for the perfect midnight film. How well would a re-imagining of Roth’s B-movie bloodfest fare when held up to the original?
Cabin Fever (2002) Makes For a Fun Homage to 70’s Exploitation Films
The original Cabin Fever was a divisive film among critics and horror fans. Yet Eli Roth’s debut film had some idiosyncratic charms that separated it from other horror films at the time. Roth, like Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie, has a fondness for the grindhouse cinema of the 1970s. In Cabin Fever, Roth uses the same B-film aesthetics.
Much of what makes Cabin Fever work are its idiosyncratic ticks in storytelling and characters.
Much of what makes Cabin Fever work are its idiosyncratic ticks in storytelling and characters. The film’s party-loving Deputy Wilson or Dennis, the mullet-haired boy who randomly screams “pancakes” before inexplicably performing kung fu moves in slow motion are the seemingly random bits that make watching Cabin Fever memorable. You may love or hate these quirks, but you can’t accuse Roth of being boring or generic.
Perhaps best known for his contributions to the “torture porn” horror subgenre, Roth uses the flesh-eating virus narrative to maximum effect. Roth assaults the audience with several scenes of gut-wrenching violence. You’ll never look at shaving the same way again after the original Cabin Fever. However, Roth films his violence in a tongue-in-cheek manner. The carnage winks knowingly at the audience, never feeling mean-spirited. There is a dark sense of humor permeating the film that separates it from other low-budget horror efforts.
While the performances nothing special, they’re better than what you can often expect in B-films. The characters may feel generic but that’s largely in part to Roth poking a little fun at exhausted horror film tropes. Cabin Fever is a minor horror entry but it still makes for fun late-night viewing.
Cabin Fever Remake Will Make You Want To Tear Off Your Own Flesh
The Cabin Fever remake is directed by someone who credited as ‘Travis Z”. It stars no one you will recognize. Most importantly, the Cabin Fever remake accomplishes the phenomenal task of being worse than the original. Yes, the remake nosedives on every imaginable aspect of film-making. It somehow accomplishes this feat while following the exact script. This is a carbon copy remake. In fact, the remake so closely follows the original that one wonders why the filmmakers even bothered.
It’ll be be easier to start by pointing out what the remake does well. The production values are adequate; the camerawork is competent. Everything else is a boring mess. The acting is wooden and devoid of charisma – you will miss Rider Strong. Cabin Fever’s original characters weren’t likable, but at least they were memorable. I could could distinguish one character from another. Even minor characters from the original film are stripped of any quirks that made them stand out. Pacing, tension, and suspense – not in this film. I still don’t understand how they made almost the exact same film, but made it feel longer and duller. I paused the remake a few times just to check how much time was left.
Even the gore effects feel cheap and underwhelming in this pointless go-around. If you are going to remake a film about a flesh-eating virus rooted in 1970’s splatter exploitation movies, you need gross, practical effects. What’s really missing from the remake is Roth’s dark humor. No, it doesn’t always work in the original. But Roth dumps buckets of blood onto the screen with a devilish grin. Travis Z delivers the flesh-eating gore in the remake with a straight face and the overall effect is flat.
Time to Board up This Cabin
There wasn’t much to deliberate on when comparing the two versions. The 2016 remake of Cabin Feveris the definition of a pointless remake. It has no redeeming qualities of which to speak. If you’re a fan of B-horror or 1970’s splatter films, stick with Eli Roth’s original vision.