For a short while, there, it looked like Eli Roth would be helming a sequel to his hit debut, Cabin Fever, but, after the success of Hostel, and disagreements over the direction Lionsgate wanted to take the series into, Roth bowed out, making room for then up-and-coming auteur, Ti West. Right out of the gate, West’s rather unique approach to the property garnered buzz in the horror industry, but, when it was revealed that Lionsgate had brought in someone to re-shoot and re-edit West’s work (thus prompting the director to request his name be removed from the film - a request Lionsgate denied), there was much speculation as to when horror fans would get the chance to see the film in all of its reportedly gory glory. Shot in 2007, the film sat in limbo, and when West, then promoting his critically acclaimed House of the Devil, openly berated Lionsgate’s cut of the film, many wondered if we’d ever see the finished product at all (and whether or not we actually wanted to). Finally, after three years, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever has been unleashed upon the world, and the results are…ummmm…pretty fucking strange, actually.
Cabin Fever 2 picks up where the first film left off, with an unrecognizable Rider Strong reprising his role as Paul, who, now infected, wanders out of the reservoir where he was dumped in only to be turned into road gravy by an oncoming school bus. Deputy Winston (Giuseppe Andrews) is first to the scene, and mistakenly identifies the road kill as a dead moose, and sends the driver and his students on his way. Moments later, however, he discovers a shoe hanging from a tree (with the foot still inside) and begins to rethink his theory. Winston starts to do a little digging (and a little partying), and comes to a horrifying conclusion. Meanwhile, a shipment of water – distilled from the very reservoir Winston dumped Paul’s body in - is delivered to the local high school, where we see the students consume it in massive quantities as they prepare for the prom that evening. That is, everybody but John (Noah Segan), that is, as his best friend/dream girl, Cassie (Alexi Wasser), doesn’t plan on attending, and, if John can’t take her, he doesn’t want to go. John’s buddy, Alex (Rusty Kelly), however, has a mean date lined up and needs John there as a wing man. John relents and attends the dance, only to discover that Cassie’s had a change of heart, and has decided to come to prom after all. Sadly, she’s also accompanied by her rich-boy/sociopath boyfriend, Marc (Marc Senter), who warns John to stay away from his girl. Angered and hurt, John decides to leave, but, just as he steps outside, a CDC convoy pulls into the school’s parking lot, and locks the students inside. This leaves John, Cassie, and Alex trapped with the rapidly deteriorating student body within.
To call Ti West’s vision of Cabin Fever a departure from Roth’s is akin to saying Star Whores is only mildly different than Star Wars. These are two decidedly different animals, with only a wicked sense of humor in common. West’s film (or Lionsgates’ or whoever Lionsgate brought in to re-shoot and edit bits of it…) is an absolutely bizarre concoction. It’s like Van Wilder meets Outbreak as shot by Herschel Gordon Lewis, with super vulgar teen-comedy, a CDC conspiracy, and absolute gallons of gore and gruesome imagery. One character, for example, receives oral sex in the boy’s bathroom from an infected girl, who then proceeds to spit up a massive dollop of sperm into the sink. Not too long after that, we get a very clear shot of said boy’s Johnson, covered in pustules, and oozing a whitish-red slime from its tip. I’m pretty sure I threw up in my mouth around that point. This is followed by a pregnant teen spilling the contents of her uterus out on the shower room floor, guts being literally puked out, and a dance floor scene that looks like a bloody Bellagio fountain show. While some of the bits are tongue in cheek, others are strangely dark and mean-spirited, blurring the line between satire and sadism. Combine all of this with crazy animated sequences, and dialogue straight out of a Kevin Smith movie, and the end result is one of the wonkiest, most schizophrenic “horror” movies I’ve ever seen.
But, ya know. I actually kinda liked it! It’s hard to say what remains of West’s vision, or if his early cut of the film was actually more unhinged than the final product, but what’s here is just so thoroughly outrageous and over-the-top that it demands to be seen for that reason alone. Sure, there were some scenes that seem out of step with the otherwise comically exaggerated violence, and the teen melodrama stuff’s equally incongruous but, in terms of pure unadulterated splatter, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever is gorehound Valhalla. That might not sell it to fans of more traditional horror fare, but if you’re a devotee of some of the more competent Troma stuff or early Peter Jackson, you’ll eat this thing right up.
Sadly, Lionsgate slings this one onto DVD with a somewhat grainy 2.35:1 transfer that looks as though someone ran it through a taffy puller. I’m not sure if this was a stylistic decision, but the image is vertically stretched out, making everyone look Funhouse-mirror tall and lean, but, after a few minutes, I got used to it. The black levels are a bit uneven, with a few blocky moments, and there are a few artifacts that pop up here and there. The 5.1 Dolby sountrack’s a bit flat and uninspired, with a somewhat muffled score and dialogue. There’s an occasional hint of surround goodness, but these effects are few and far between.
Extras are equally disappointing, but, seeing as how the director wants no part of the film, it’s not like I was expecting much to begin with. We get a short “Gore Reel” feature, which is basically a montage of select gore sequences, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it behind-the-scenes featurette entitled, imaginatively enough, “Behind the Scenes Featurette”. Rounding out the extras are trailers for other Lionsgate releases.
It’s obvious that Lionsgate wants to wipe their hands of Cabin Fever 2 as much as Ti West does, and this somewhat sloppy DVD release makes that even clearer. It’s a shame, though, as, while it’s not a great movie, this flick has the gore and an eccentricity to be a far-out cult-smash. There’s no telling if West and Lionsgate will mend fences long enough for the director to piece together his original cut, but I’d really love to see it if and when he does, because, if what’s here is any indication, West’s version of Cabin Fever 2 would be something to behold, indeed!