Even in the case of Travis Zariwny’s dismal Cabin Fever, I’m not one of those people who automatically hates a film because it’s a remake. That line of thinking makes little sense. If anything, your favourite film being remade is a great way to draw attention back to the original…especially if it flops. However, the absolute worst thing a person can do, when helming a remake, is to miss the point of the original at almost every turn. That leads to a film that seems ill-advised and misshapen. That leads to Cabin Fever 2016.
Eli Roth’s debut film Cabin Fever is a nostalgic film to say the least. Drawing from the films he clearly grew up on, Roth fuses 80’s hyper-camp with millennial realism to give us a laugh-out-loud horrible body-horror venture. Travis Zariwny’s remake doesn’t quite understand where Roth was coming from. He seems to think that with a few tonal tweaks, Cabin Fever could be intense, scary, shocking, and totally humourless. And he’s right on one count.
The dialogue from Roth’s original is hammy as fuck. But the delivery matches the writing (the whole cast seems turned up to 100%) so the film operates as an exercise in shameless fun. The remake keeps most of the dialogue but tries to play it straight. Literally all of the quirks have been cut. Now, I don’t always agree with Roth’s sense of humour, but the charm of Cabin Fever comes from a varied and inconsistent sense of silly. This version tries to use Roth’s dialogue with a straight face and it just doesn’t work. Imagine if someone remade Pieces but tried to instil a moody millennial cynicism, it would look ill-humoured and dafter than it initially did. Zariwny also swaps Giuseppe Andrews’ party-mad cop for Louise Linton’s Deputy Winston, a mysterious, scarred character who gives off a rape-revenge vibe but never gets to expand on her look. It’s a shame because she’s one of very few characters who has a whiff of intrigue about them. Similarly, Cabin Fever 2016 swaps Roth’s hillbilly mop-top biting boy for a rabbit-masked kid, again stripping the humour and trying to crowbar some kind of eeriness into his film. The result is a series of fumbled sincerities and, even worse, a non-existent sense of humour.
The gore is fine, but doesn’t exactly play itself up or down after an opening trick that will have you braced for outlandish blood-play. The cast are all fine, but don’t grab our attentions the way Roth’s crew of overdone yuppies did. This isn’t a camp slice of fun, and it certainly isn’t an attempt at something scary. It’s a middling collection of reshoots by someone who doesn’t quite know why they are bothering. At best its proof that Roth’s debut is still a valid and enjoyable film 14 years later. At worst, it’s a warning sign to all directors considering a remake: pull up your socks or don’t fucking bother.
We need fewer remakes where the outcome is an identical, if less charismatic, twin with some added internet references. Don’t waste your time on this pointless re-hash.
Dir. Travis Zariwny
Stars: Gage Golightly, Mathew Daddario, Samuel Davis, Nadine Crocker, Louise Linton