Remaking Cabin Fever, Eli Roth’s uneven 2002 douchebags-with-a-flesh-eating-virus zombie film, isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Reworking Roth and co-writer Randy Pearlstein’s screenplay, neophyte director Travis Zariwny tries to stick it to the kind of oblivious collegiate protagonists that the original mocked for harboring unexamined prejudices. Zariwny’s do-over sadly lacks the juvenile confidence and clear-eyed nastiness of its rabid predecessor.
In the new Cabin Fever, the college kids are presented as simultaneously attractive and repulsive for wanting to drink beer and have sex during a week-long country retreat. Like with most post–Friday the 13th slasher films, this Cabin Fever‘s frantic pre-infection sex scenes fully exploit tattooed flanks and pierced nipples. But Paul (Matthew Daddario), a callow, harmless frat type, still gets punished for ineffectually putting the moves on childhood sweetheart Karen (Gage Golightly), the first of their group to be infected with a mysterious blood-transmitted skin-melting disease.
Zariwny’s conflicted retread is both too harsh and too judgmental. When Karen replies to Paul’s awkward advances with teasing deflections, her actions are neither eye-roll-worthy nor charming: She’s just playfully avoiding a delicate subject. Which leaves viewers to wonder: If these kids aren’t being schematically killed off because they’re selfish assholes, then why are they the subject of horror-movie morality?
The gory scare scenes are similarly disappointing. Zariwny lacks Roth’s love for peeling flesh and tar-colored blood-geysers, making this all feel weirdly pointless.
Directed by Travis Zariwny
Opens February 12, IFC Center