[SPOILER ALERT: There isn’t much, but there are a few later scenes referenced.]
I’m going to say it, and everyone is going to hate me.
The remake is better than the original.
Some of the shots are framed the exact same way, except flipped around. Some of the script is exactly the same. They didn’t even do anything new or reimagined with the remake. They literally remade the original CABIN FEVER. And it’s better.
Let me give you some context.
In college, I went a little horror-movie crazy (and I haven’t stopped). I bought all kinds of eighties slashes, cult classics, all the movies I’d wanted to see when I was too young or too high-strung for it. I’d been attracted by the cover for CABIN FEVER a number of times before I finally bought it, because it was a contagion movie, and that’s one of the things I’m legitimately afraid of in real life. When I watch ghost movies and supernatural villain movies, I can go to sleep afterward just fine because I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural (open-minded but skeptical). But diseases are real. They happen. And necrotizing fasciitis is a real, terrifying thing. So what a great premise for a horror movie, right?
Then I sit down to watch it.
The necrotizing fasciitis parts were suitably gory and effective. I think the opening credits are one of the best in the business. And that scene where the girl is shaving her legs and starts shaving off her legs is probably in my top twenty-five horror moments.
But that’s it. Those are the only good things I can say about the Eli Roth-directed CABIN FEVER. The man needs to stick with producing, because he’s decent at that. The whole film, though, from script to direction, just felt so…juvenile. The humor wasn’t funny. The weirdness didn’t have a point. And CABIN FEVER is filled with an unsympathetic cast of jerks. We root for precisely no one to survive–except maybe Winston, strangely enough.
A man is killed by a harmonica, and as a white girl in the suburbs, I literally can’t even.
It’s one thing to tell a story about juvenile people. It’s another for the director to be just as juvenile–you can feel it in all his immature choices. I can watch and even enjoy bad horror. I can enjoy campy horror. I can enjoy young people horror. But for Pete’s sake, I only enjoyed about three consecutive minutes of CABIN FEVER, and the rest was trash. I gave the movie away because I hated it so much.
About six months ago, all the CABIN FEVER movies were on Netflix at once, and I thought, Hey, I’m more tolerant of all kinds of horror these days. Maybe the original CABIN FEVER isn’t as bad as I thought it was. Maybe I’ve grown as a horror aficionado and can appreciate CABIN FEVER as the cult classic that it is. So I watched it again.
I still hate it. Totally my opinion. I feel like it was made by an emotionally stunted manchild for other emotionally stunted manchildren, and I have no place in its audience. So maybe it’s just not meant for me, although I seem to enjoy other horror movies obviously made for male audiences (the PIRANHA remake and THE BABYSITTER come to mind).
Seriously, when I get more out of the spectacularly gross, misogynistic, shallow CABIN FEVER: SPRING FEVER (yay, Marc Senter) and CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO (yay, Currie Graham and Sean Astin) than the original movie, maybe the problem isn’t me?
Enter the remake–taking a good concept and bad execution and trying to execute it better.
The characters are still juvenile, but they aren’t as unlikable as the first set. They’re not completely lacking in redeemable qualities. When they make bad decisions, you get why they make them. Even when the least likeable of the group starts to show symptoms, I felt bad for him, because it’s a horrible way to die–unlike Jason, it’s not a villain you can outrun. It’s something that’s already inside of you, and it’s too fast-acting to treat even if they get to a hospital. The rash and the blood are more realistic. The claustrophobia is more intense. It’s as though a grown-ass man took Eli Roth’s original movie and shot it like a grown-ass director would. It’s a more mature film in every way.
The only real misstep they might have made was recasting Winston as a scarred Barbie doll whose obsession with partying seemed more creepy-coy than the original sex, drugs, rock-and-roll simple Winston. It was an interesting direction, but I’m not sure whether it worked with the more coherent tone of the rest of the movie. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t.
My favorite bit of irony about this movie (both of them) was that it turned some of the slasher tropes on their head–probably why it’s a cult classic. In the old eighties slashers, sex, drugs, and drinking would have gotten them killed. But in CABIN FEVER, it’s drinking water instead of beer that gets them sick. It’s eating off of dishes cleaned with the bad water that gets them sick instead of being a dirty slob. Being bad doesn’t get you killed. The villain’s in the safe places, and there’s no saving you after that. I feel they play that up more in the remake.
Even if it’s not necessarily the best horror movie ever, I’d go so far as to call the remake a decent horror film, and I enjoy rewatching it when I need another dose of contagion fear and rereading The Stand just seems like it’ll take too long.