Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #143
Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 23, 2009
Sub-Genre: Splatter/Black Comedy
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 86 minutes
Director: Ti West
Producers: Lauren Moews Vilchik, Patrick Durham, Jonathan Sachar
Screenplay: Joshua Malkin
Story: Randy Pearlstein, Ti West
Special Effects: David Hill
Cinematography: Eliot Rockett
Score: Ryan Shore
Editing: Janice Hampton
Studio: Tonic Films, Morningstar Films, Aloe Entertainment
Stars: Rider Strong, Noah Segan, Alexi Wasser, Rusty Kelley, Marc Senter, Michael Bowen, Larry Fessenden, Mark Borchardt, Judah Friedlander, Giuseppe Andrews
Suggested Audio Candy
Minimal Compact “Inner Station”
Time to set some things straight Grueheads. You see, certain films suffer injustices which I feel are entirely unwarranted and in dire need of correction. I struggle to apprehend why said works are vilified or met with such unanimous indifference but each to their own I guess. That said, should my blood boil enough then the Crimson Quill simply has to bleed and, right now, it wishes to downright gush. Let me tell you about this particular director and why I believe Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break received such a scathing response from shortsighted critics the world over. You may have read my appraisal for Ti West’s The House of the Devil and, if you haven’t, then I urge you to do so by clicking here before we proceed any further. Fret not, I’ll await your return.
You back? Okay then, let us reconvene. As you will now be aware, The House Of The Devil received a perfect ten from me, one that I stand by resolutely as this is a piece of art which I believe to be absolute perfection. Some say that can’t be achieved and to that I say poppycock. It seems unjust that such a score could ever be questioned as I believe that, in ten years or so, my view will be shared by many critics. I get that a piece of modern work needs time to marinate with folk in order to ascertain its relevance in the grand scheme of things and am the first to adjust my rating if I spot such class on repeat visits. It doesn’t take a decade for me to reach a final judgement and, to me, West’s film was the epitome of perfection. It managed effortlessly to, not only capture the feel of a film from thirty years prior, but to appear as though it could only have been made then and that is some achievement.
I defy anybody watching that with a fresh vantage and no prior knowledge to suggest otherwise. He literally did no wrong and The House Of The Devil stands head and bloody shoulders above nigh-on all post-millennium horror flicks in my humble opinion. Since my first evening with his retro-styled occult picture I have flown its flag proudly. Furthermore, I go unnecessary every time I receive even the faintest whiff that his name is attached to another project. However, one thing I’m never culpable of is having blinkered vision and M is for Miscarriage offers proof of this claim. While being aware of his involvement made The ABCs of Death a more exciting proposition, in truth, his entry fell flat amongst other more distinguished vignettes. It simply didn’t resonate as strongly, appeared a little phoned-in and, while that isn’t to suggest it lacked any merit whatsoever, it did get a little lost in the crowd. I ain’t nobody’s bitch see?
So let’s wax a little about why I believe Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break has yet to be held in the esteem it is deserving. To be honest, I never doubted it once prior to my first exposure. Sure I was mindful of the lowly aggregate score it boasted but drinking in negative “reviews” is an act I have no wish to partake in. I’ve always preferred to reach my own conclusions and never more so than when the man perched behind the lens is Ti West. Thus I entered with wide eyes and tongue unraveled and resting in a bowl of ominously seasoned bar nuts. Indeed, it took all of a minute for it to make its mark. The exact moment that our first carcass literally explodes all over the screen of a mobile school bus like a Catholic priest on a confessional grate, I was all in. Furthermore, when the driver of said school bus turns on his wipers to cut through the blood-saturated windscreen with a look of priceless bemusement, I was lubed right up and primed for the shafting.
Meanwhile, I simply cannot proceed any further without mentioning the animated opening credits. As a devout fan of numerous eighties comedies that rolled out the toons for the entrée, I was thrilled to see this approach adopted by West, who makes no secret of his affection for the era. Moreover, he uses this technique to tell the back story and brings us up to speed without the necessity for drawn-out exposition to fill in the gaps about the landslide set to commence. By now we’re crystal clear that this is not about to redefine the genre and that’s fine and dandy. Just ship in the co-eds, latex, and blood bags and we’re your new best friend. You see, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break is a case of style over substance and, given that it is a sequel, what else could we be expecting? West’s finger is evidently hovering over the fun button with intent and once pressed we are thrown back in our seats in the same manner as when Aerosmith count us down on the Rock and Rollercoaster. Once it hits the first bend, velocity takes control, and we are pinned back by one of the safest pair of hands in the industry right now.
The plot certainly isn’t looking to win any awards for originality. High school senior John (Noah Segan) is preparing for prom and his long-term crush for Cassie (Alexi Wasser) looks set to pay dividends. His best friend Alex (Rusty Kelley) also appears in luck after inexplicably punching above his weight with Liz (Regan Deal) and this promises to be one killer party. Alas, there seems to be a discrepancy with the bottled water as it has become contaminated with the exact same flesh-eating bacteria that spread with such extreme prejudice in the original. That’s it in a nutshell and it turns out to be more than enough as where Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break plans to snag a captive audience is through effect, not cause.
We don’t expect Shakespeare recitals as this is clearly not the aim. The cast consists mostly of caricatures, just regular dumb kids with more spunk than funk, but are as affable as they are hateful. Meanwhile, West sprinkles his own exclusive seasoning over proceedings and provides a dark satirical look at the lamb-to-the-slaughter effect and how it plays out so relentlessly. I hope you’ve packed your waterproofs as the deep red almost seeps through the screen at one juncture, such is the tenacity with which it pummels us. Indeed, we are left pondering what the fuck we’ll be made privy to next, as he ups the ante like a poker demon sitting on a royal flush. West being West this entails donning poker face, over-sized reflective shades and a motherfucking Stetson just for the sheer Helmuth it.
So let’s just say there was a flesh-devouring virus amongst us. We would be royally screwed and Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break reveals why as it showcases the haste in which a little putrid water can wipe out an entire community, then carry on spreading. There’s a grim message in here somewhere about why the human race is ultimately destined to fall to its knees or at least that’s what I gathered. It also nods to Eli Roth’s forerunner on numerous occasions, notably as it rattles towards its climax. Roth’s ending to the original was a hootenanny and provided a hilarious lesson in the importance of context. Here, the entire closing act is like one long parting shot and highlights the domino effect further through means of sheer hilarity. However, it also brings me to my next point.
You see, I’ve never been one for swatting up in advance and, during a brief conversation with West, it became clear that he has practically disowned this movie. It turns out that so much changed post-production that he simply lost heart and requested his name be removed from the project and the pseudonym Alan Smithee credited instead. Not being a member of the Directors Guild of America, his request was denied and he’s not best pleased with the outcome. I get that frustration, really I do, but I’m also just a cinephile disinterested in politics and can still see his bloody hand prints all over it. Had it been a travesty then that would be one thing and, while the final act may seem ingenious, it is plain to see a fair share of cut and paste was involved in post. But somehow it still manages to hang together so all’s well that ends well in my book.
Indeed, when looking at a movie such as Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break, it becomes a case of weighing up the pros against the cons. Is it as good as Roth’s original? No it’s not but I’d watch it again before its predecessor without question. Interestingly, while its receipt was overall somewhat harsh, some critics managed to spot the irony. However, none have touched upon just how iconic it actually is and how delightful a companion piece it makes to Cabin Fever, slotting in like a chameleon’s love twizzler. Ultimately it’s all about setting those bars of expectation accordingly and enjoying it for precisely what it is – a fucking free-for-all. Should you do so, then I’m guessing that aggregate score will soon be rising and sales of bottled water will be heading in the opposite direction.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Have you ever wondered how feeding time at Fat Camp would look? West keeps things just tongue-in-cheek enough to sneak this past the censors, albeit by a gerbil’s whisker. Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break is, without a shadow of doubt, one of the most unabated splatter-fests I have ever had the pleasure of becoming drenched in. Whether spurting periodically from a neck cavity or squirting from the urethral flume of a hapless teen (accompanied by semen mouthwash spitting) it is everywhere and makes the bloodletting of the original look like a paper cut on a sperm whale. It spurts, jettisons, tsunamis, combines with piss and cum, detonates, eviscerates, annihilates, and yet ironically, the moment which sticks with me most is actually an entirely bloodless concussion that had me clutching my skull-cap for dear life. As for pelt, well a quick flash of chest is about all she wrote although there is some gratuitous penis and I’m fairly certain that ain’t no prop plonker either. The fact that the lad is on the cusp of legal consent makes it even more unexpected.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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