CLOSINGS: View Closings

Cabin Fever (2002) vs. Cabin Fever (2016)

"Listen up, you primitive screwheads! This is my..wait, wrong movie."

At least Gus Van Sant can feel a little less stupid now.

Posted: Jul 21, 2018 8:17 AM

Sometimes you don’t agree with decisions but at least you can understand them. When Gus Van Sant decided to do a shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho” (1960), it may have seemed like a bad idea and, in fact, it turned out to be a bad idea but if you squint really hard you can sort of see why he would have wanted to do it. Maybe he thought of it as some sort of creative challenge or maybe he just wanted to publicly express his admiration for the Master of Suspense or maybe he tricked people into giving him the money to make the world’s most expensive demonstration of the vacuousness of Hollywood’s remake machine. But to essentially make a shot-for-shot remake of “Cabin Fever” (2002)? What possible reason could anyone have for that?

That’s what this edition of KIMT’s Weekend Remake Throwdown will consider as we ponder how anyone could look at a modest genre success which had already spawned an awful sequel and an even more terrible prequel and think “You know what? The world really needs to see the original again with superior production values and inferior everything else!” It’s “Cabin Fever” (2002) vs. “Cabin Fever” (2016) in a contest that proves anyone who is disappointed that Eli Roth has never lived up to his promise as a filmmaker was probably wrong about how promising he was all along.

To start with, when I call “Cabin Fever” (2016) essentially a shot-for-shot remake, I am not exaggerating. These two movies have the same characters in the same setting with almost the same dialog and the exact same plot. That one is a legitimately decent little horror flick while the other is a punch-yourself-in-the-face-for-watching-it disaster is lesson in the weird alchemy of cinema where you can have the same ingredients mixed in the same manner and somehow an idiot chef can still screw it up.

"Let's see Ben Savage top this!"

Let's see Ben Savage top this!

The story is about five college kids taking a vacation at a cabin in the woods, which I’m pretty sure has not been something any actual college kids have done in the real world since at least “Evil Dead” (1981). Seriously, when is the last time a college student with the choice being getting drunk on the beach somewhere warm or getting drunk and worrying about Lyme disease somewhere green has picked the latter? There’s a boyfriend and girlfriend, Jeff and Marcy. They’re joined by Paul, a professional beta-male, Karen, the high school tease who never outgrew it, and Bert, the sort of invincible douche who winds up killing someone else in a fraternity hazing stunt. Jeff and Marcy just want to bang. Paul just wants to bang Karen. Karen doesn’t want anything. She’s just there to give Paul someone to want to bang. And Bert has no earthly reason to be there or be friends with any of them.

They arrive at the cabin just as an outbreak of a flesh-rotting disease begins and the five have to protect themselves first from infection, then from each other, and finally from the white trash, redneck locals of the area. Oh, and there’s a guy and his dog camping nearby because screenwriters Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein realized they needed a slightly more energetic threat than the world’s worst case of full body athlete’s foot to provide a little excitement through the second act and the dart they threw landed on “vicious dog.” Outside of the clever idea of making a horror movie killer a sickness instead of a machete-wielding maniac, the elements of “Cabin Fever” (2002) don’t seem all that impressive at first blush.

Karen now felt extremely foolish for ignoring her dentist's warnings about gingivitis.

Karen felt extremely foolish for having ignored all her dentist's warnings about gingivitis. 

But in his directorial debut, Roth shows an impressive grasp of pacing and rhythm and puts barely a wasted second on screen. Roth and co-writer Pearlstein also admirably recognized they weren’t creating a masterpiece, so they threw in everything they could to hold the audience’s attention. There are two gratuitous nude scenes, some erotic storytelling, and a flashback sequence to a bowling alley massacre. None of that has anything to do with the story, either thematically or dramatically. It’s merely a straightforward attempt at arousing some prurient interest.

And to be fair, there’s also some quality screenwriting on display in the original. Jeff possesses the qualities of selfishness and foresight that would end most horror movies before they begin if more characters had them. He’s the sort of guy who hears someone screaming behind a door at the end of a long, dark hallway and decides to jump out the window. Marcy is a two-dimensional chick whose two dimensions are she’s assertive and she’s horny, but both of those play a useful role in the story. Karen is presented as the classic good girl but also as an experienced manipulator of the male sex drive. Paul is the putative hero of the tale but he’s a bit of a date-rapey creep as well. And Burt starts out as a cartoonish jerk whose humanity emerges as the atrocities commence.

“Cabin Fever” (2002) is a low-brow bit of cinema which doesn’t allow its lack of ambition to excuse a lack of execution. Roth may not be aiming very high but he’s still very focused on hitting his mark. Aided by capable work from his cast, he created something of genuine worth. “Cabin Fever” (2002) isn’t a must-see but it’s certainly something you should watch over the mountain of other dreck in the horror genre.

"What did that guy mean when he said I had a 'purty mouth?'"

"What did that guy mean when he said I had a 'purty mouth?'"

How Roth went from a youngish man with that sort of filmmaking integrity to a middle-aged man who would help produce a remake that stunk on ice is probably quite a sad story, but I’m sure it’s not nearly as pathetic as “Cabin Fever” (2016). The only noteworthy things about it are it might be the most gentrified remake in movie history and its director Travis Zarlwny might be the poster boy for “Filmmakers Who Make Movies As Though They’ve Never Interacted With Another Human Being.”

Nearly everything in the remake looks better than the original, at least superficially. The camera work is more impressive and varied. The sets are more detailed and extensive. Even the costuming is more stylish. The cabin in 2002 looks like the sort of cheap accommodations college kids could afford. The remake cabin is a two-story mini-mansion that looks like some corporate executive’s hunting getaway. The whole remake appears to have cost a lot more than the original, except for the bizarre incongruity that the 2016 main actors are all slightly less attractive than their 2002 counterparts.

And Zarlwny’s ability to slavishly follow the 2002 screenplay while still being unable to present a single believable or interesting human character on screen is almost impressive, like a surgeon who somehow manages to sew up a patient with his right hand still inside. He removes all the pervy aspects of Paul, rendering him as interesting as a coat rack. He also neuters the teenage tease aspects of Karen until she’s even more of a plot device than before. Marcy goes from two-dimensional to no-dimensional. Jeff looks like an underwear model who wandered onto the set one day. And Burt…good grief. 2002 Burt was an annoying ass but at least he was an annoying ass you’ve either known or could imagine knowing in real life. 2016 Burt is a walking, talking void. If someone put a gun to my head and demanded I define 2016 Burt’s character, my brains would wind up splattered all over the wall.

For a cabin in the middle of nowhere, that's one hell of a clean window.

For a cabin in the middle of nowhere, that's one hell of a clean window.

And you might think all of that was the fault of the actors but you would be wrong. I mean, maybe if the 2016 cast had all been genius thespians, they might have been able to salvage something of their parts. But you can tell the problem is not a lack of acting talent but a director who doesn’t understand how real people behave. That’s made clear by two supporting characters in the remake who are not even like something out of a bad “Saturday Night Live” sketch. These guys are like something out of a bad sketch from “Pink Lady and Jeff.” For Zarlwny to allow two actors to embarrass themselves that way is proof positive he’s the source of the suck.

Let me see if I can sum up Zarlwny’s lack of human comprehension. In “Cabin Fever” (2002), there’s a scene where Karen is alive buy horribly decayed and Paul has to put her out of her misery, so he beats her head in with a shovel. It’s a harsh scene that also plays as the wimpy Paul’s ascent into manhood. There’s the same scene in 2016 but Paul doesn’t hit Karen with the shovel. He spears her in the face with it, which is not only a fairly unnatural act to perform with a shovel but it doesn’t kill her. And as she lies there with her lower jaw ripped away from her head, Paul still doesn’t beat her to death with the shovel. He douses her sore-covered body in gasoline, sets her on fire, and stands there listening to her scream as she burns to death. This officially makes Paul the most incompetent dick in horror history but Zarlwny portrays this hilarious bit of black comedy as though it were some wrenching moment of noble brutality. He just doesn’t get it.

Seriously...how can a bunch of college kids afford THIS place?  Is there another movie where they're all a bunch of drug dealers?

Seriously, how can five college kids afford this place?  Is there some other movie where they're all drug dealers?

“Cabin Fever” (2002) takes this Throwdown, as if you needed me to confirm that, because it’s good enough to make the idea of turning it into a franchise seem vaguely plausible. That “Cabin Fever” (2016) and every other entry in the franchise has turned out to be cinematic catastrophes shows the difference between plausible and wise. And that Roth allowed himself to be connected to the 2016 remake in any fashion only shows that success, even of a very limited kind, can be the worst drug of all.

Cabin Fever (2002)
Written by Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein.
Directed by Eli Roth.
Starring Rider Strong…yes, the buy from “Boy Meets World”…Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent, Joey Kern, Arie Verveen, Robert Harris, Hal Courtney, Matthew Helms, Richard Boone, and Giuseppe Andrews.

Cabin Fever (2016)
Written by Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein.
Directed by Travis Zarlwny.
Starring Gage Golightly, Matthew Daddario, Samuel Davis, Nadine Crocker, Dustin Ingram, Randy Schulman, George Griffith, Tim Zajaros, Aaron Trainor, Louise Linton, and Laura Kenny.

They just realized this wasn't going to be a remake of "The Burning."

They just realized this wasn't going to be a remake of "The Burning."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295001

Reported Deaths: 3535
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin624331107
Ramsey26238493
Anoka20851224
Dakota20527189
Stearns13245106
Washington13220111
St. Louis8141108
Scott798154
Wright720338
Olmsted639934
Sherburne552241
Clay473356
Carver443213
Blue Earth395813
Rice393335
Kandiyohi378719
Crow Wing344731
Nobles301429
Chisago29799
Otter Tail288820
Benton285847
Winona266629
Mower248523
Douglas242235
Polk238223
Morrison224027
Lyon206711
Beltrami202517
McLeod198511
Becker194015
Goodhue190628
Steele18336
Itasca179123
Isanti179016
Todd173912
Carlton170414
Nicollet154925
Freeborn14795
Mille Lacs145131
Le Sueur141111
Waseca135911
Cass133310
Brown131215
Pine12788
Meeker11638
Roseau11074
Hubbard107523
Martin105520
Wabasha9941
Redwood87518
Dodge8230
Chippewa8157
Watonwan8104
Cottonwood7942
Renville77322
Sibley7564
Wadena7476
Aitkin71729
Rock7149
Pipestone69618
Houston6534
Fillmore6510
Yellow Medicine61511
Pennington6137
Murray5623
Kanabec55713
Swift5448
Faribault5251
Pope5071
Clearwater4817
Stevens4813
Jackson4581
Marshall4508
Lake3916
Unassigned38659
Koochiching3675
Wilkin3605
Lac qui Parle3513
Lincoln3331
Norman3307
Big Stone2962
Mahnomen2834
Grant2566
Red Lake2033
Kittson2027
Traverse1391
Lake of the Woods941
Cook630

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 223783

Reported Deaths: 2330
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33166333
Linn13991164
Scott1100384
Black Hawk10795134
Woodbury10255124
Johnson940036
Dubuque913491
Story674921
Dallas629057
Pottawattamie617069
Sioux366725
Webster357033
Cerro Gordo349644
Marshall346345
Clinton322840
Buena Vista302214
Muscatine282668
Des Moines282419
Warren276411
Plymouth270641
Wapello251571
Jones228413
Jasper214643
Marion202919
Lee199416
Carroll196422
Bremer192612
Henry18107
Crawford174115
Benton167418
Tama153340
Jackson143013
Delaware141021
Washington138214
Dickinson135810
Boone134811
Mahaska126127
Wright12226
Buchanan115410
Clay11504
Hardin114010
Page11144
Hamilton11009
Clayton10875
Harrison106629
Cedar106213
Calhoun10607
Kossuth10426
Floyd103916
Mills10297
Fayette102210
Lyon10188
Butler9916
Poweshiek98213
Winneshiek95812
Iowa93012
Winnebago91323
Hancock8547
Louisa84916
Grundy84611
Chickasaw8424
Sac8407
Cherokee8214
Cass80222
Allamakee79011
Appanoose77910
Mitchell7794
Humboldt7635
Shelby76111
Union7576
Emmet74924
Guthrie74115
Franklin73421
Jefferson7062
Madison6764
Palo Alto6474
Unassigned6470
Keokuk5777
Pocahontas5572
Howard5489
Greene5170
Osceola5171
Ida48113
Clarke4774
Taylor4603
Davis4548
Montgomery45011
Monroe43912
Adair4298
Monona4272
Fremont3553
Van Buren3545
Worth3540
Lucas3226
Decatur3160
Audubon2952
Wayne2957
Ringgold2082
Adams1652
Rochester
Clear
29° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 20°
Mason City
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 24°
Albert Lea
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 23°
Austin
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 21°
Charles City
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 20°
A Sunny and Mild Saturday Expected
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sidelined in quarantine: Coach Fennelly talks about his experience away from the game

Image

Here Comes Santa Claus Drive-Thru

Image

Here Comes Santa Claus Drive-Thru

Image

Santa Claus Visits Rochester to Lead Drive-Thru Parade

Image

Aaron's Friday Evening Forecast

Image

Increased demand for real Christmas trees

Image

Santa visits Rochester for drive-thru parade

Image

Salvation Army needs bell ringers

Image

Search for man stalking women

Image

Downtown Alliance for shopping locally

Community Events