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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Cabin Fever (2016) (Blu-ray)
Cabin Fever (2016) (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // Unrated // July 5, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $22.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted July 13, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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Full disclosure: I'm a massive fan of Eli Roth's original Cabin Fever, which takes the tropes of the cabin-in-the-woods movie, a spectacularly unique cast, and a memorably off-kilter sensibility, and blended them into exactly the kind of movie one would like to stumble upon unexpectedly during a late-night horror movie binge. I even have a soft spot for the much-derided sequel, which comes dangerously close to recapturing that same magic, before changes made by nervous producers become too intrusive to ignore. I also find sequels and remakes an interesting business; instead of being put off by the idea of favorite classics being touched, I'm fascinated to see how some other set of people believe they can fit the lightning back in the bottle. Early reports pegged Cabin Fever 2016 as one that simply repurposed Roth and co-writer Randy Pearlstein's original screenplay, changing only the deaths and their contexts, making it sound like a contemporary version of Gus Van Sant's ill-advised yet persistently intriguing Psycho remake.

Unfortunately, there's one small difference between what I had heard was happening and what has happened, and it makes all the difference in the world. Cabin Fever doesn't go back to whatever draft Roth and Pearlstein had cooked up initially; instead, it appears to be based on a transcript of the finished film, with every line reading, improvisation, quirk and inflection now hard-coded into the draft. Elements that once made Cabin Fever charmingly different now feel like obligation, suffocating this new version by Travis Zariwny (who goes by "Travis Z" on the packaging and in the film) before it even begins.

For those who haven't seen the original, the story follows close friends Paul (Samuel Davis), Karen (Gage Golightly), Jeff (Matthew Daddario), Marcy (Nadine Crocker), and Bert (Dustin Ingram) on a weeklong getaway to a secluded cabin. Jeff and Marcy have come to enjoy each other's company, Paul has come to try and close the deal on his childhood crush on Karen, and Bert has come just to make everyone's lives miserable. Instead of a week of fun and flings, however, they encounter Henry (Randy Schulman), a local drifter who's being consumed by a strain of flesh-eating bacteria. Although there are a few cosmetic changes to the basic story, all for the worse (Bert is now "a gamer" who brings an AR-15 on the trip with him instead of a smaller, more old-fashioned rifle, which comes off as completely insane even if the character is meant to be an obnoxious blowhard), the plot basically plays out from beginning to end. Oh, and Deputy Winston is now played by Louise Linton, whose imitation of Giuseppe Andrews' authentic "party man" attitude is painful to watch.

There's very little to praise here, from the distractingly glossy cabin (an intentional shift, but one that feels in keeping with the film's flashy, nuance-free atmosphere) to the minor changes made to some of the characters' deaths. One of the only substantial changes comes near the end of the film, when Burt returns to the cabin with a handful of local yokels in tow, and even then it feels pretty minor at best. The entirety of what makes the original Cabin Fever effective was Roth's gonzo vision for it, his strange impish delight for the weird and inappropriate (which often gets him into trouble). Among the movie's most sterile moments is the campfire sequence where Paul tells a story about a bowling alley (now free of visual flashbacks, and thus, flair or tension), followed by the appearance of a fellow hitchhiker once played by Roth himself. The one bright spot among a disappointingly forgettable cast (not necessarily their fault) is Gage Golightly as Karen, whose interpretation of the character's sexiness is different than Jordan Ladd's. Of course, even in the few moments where her charisma shines, there's no comfort in seeing her bringing something to the table, because anyone who's seen the original Cabin Fever knows her time is limited, and by the time she starts to settle in, there's not much left to make the most of.

In theory, there's nothing wrong with the idea of making Cabin Fever, if one were to really clean the slate back to the original script and let another director with as much personality as Roth's fill in the story with their own set of quirks. Instead, this new iteration is the worst of both worlds, one that canonizes everything that made Roth's movie great while refusing to bring anything else to the table. The producers of this new Cabin Fever clearly see the potential for the series to be more than what it became. Sadly, since Cabin Fever 2, there's been a sense that too few involved with the making of the movies know what made the original special in the first place.

The Blu-ray
Much like the movie itself, Cabin Fever's Blu-ray art is an update of what came before, replacing the silhouette of a skull in the trees above the cabin in question with a bloody tears streaming from a woman's opened eyes. The one-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case (no holes), and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
At the very least, Cabin Fever redux both looks and sounds great on home video. Boasting a crisp and colorful 2.39:1 1080p AVC-encoded transfer and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, every gooey, gory flesh wound is both vivid, crimson red and accompanied by a stomach-churningly vivid squelch. Fine detail is excellent throughout the film, dark scenes appear nicely balanced with no sign of ugly compression artifacts, and both music and dialogue are nicely balanced among the ambient sound effects and thick, wet splatter. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras
Only one extra is included. "The Making of Cabin Fever" (11:03) is a pretty loose making-of featurette, mostly consisting of interview audio laid over B-roll footage, with the occasional on-camera interview with director Travis Zariwny and the cast. Not too polished, but certainly plays as presumptuous in retrospect.

An original theatrical trailer is also included.

Even as someone who is frequently fascinated by remakes and sequels, and a huge fan of the original Cabin Fever, this new one is a waste of time. Skip it.

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