Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #348
Number of Views: One
Release Date: June 26, 2014
Sub-Genre: Body Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Kaare Andrews
Producers: Evan Astrowsky, Jaime Pina
Screenplay: Jake Wade Wall
Special Effects: George Frangadakis, Andrew Freeman, Vincent J. Guastini
Visual Effects: Damian Drago, John Ross
Cinematography: Norm Li
Score: Kevin Riepl
Editing: Michael P. Mason
Studios: Film002, Indomina Group
Distributor: Image Entertainment
Stars: Sean Astin, Currie Graham, Mitch Ryan, Jillian Murray, Ryan Donowho, Brando Eaton, Lydia Hearst, Solly Duran, Claudette Lali, Juan ‘Papo’ Bancalari, Marie Michelle Bazile, Roberto Linval, Magio Mojica
Suggested Audio Candy
Kevin Riepl “Porter Crossing”
In 2002, when Eli Roth gave us Cabin Fever, I wonder if he had any idea how topical his film would become. Back then, Ebola was not yet a threat, and a little festering flesh could be put down to a particularly gnarly case of eczema. Since the pandemic became world news, everyone is a little more selective about who they share their drinking water with and suddenly Cabin Fever has become a lot more relevant. In 2009, Ti West attempted to put his spin on events with his sequel Spring Fever. He is quick to discredit this from his résumé and was appalled by how studio meddling tampered with his original vision. However, for as much as Cabin Fever has become a cuss word to West, I thoroughly enjoyed every demented minute of it. Sure, it was a mess but it was an entertaining-as-hell mess and almost impossible not to take to your heart.
Patient Zero is actually a prequel and was originally lined up to be shot back-to-back with Outbreak, the intended fourth entry into the series. Plans have since been scrapped and it now appears that a remake is on the cards, despite the fact that the original is still less than fifteen years old. As for this next installment into the festering franchise, the baton was passed to Kaare Andrews (Altitude) and he does his level best to prevent the rot from setting in. His film has plenty of the icky gross-out goo synonymous to the series, but much of Roth’s initial intention has become woefully lost in translation.
Possibly the most intriguing aspect of Patient Zero comes in the casting of Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of The Rings). Here he plays Porter, the sole survivor of the flesh-eating virus which has wiped out the population of his island nirvana. His remuneration for being immune to its effects is to be imprisoned indefinitely by the Center for Disease Control in a remote facility and treated akin to a lab rat while scientists work on a potential vaccine. He’s a tad embittered and Astin tackles the role with great aplomb, showing enough bubbling vitriol beneath his distressed veneer to keep us invested through the opening exchanges.
Of course, any film bearing the mantle Cabin Fever, is nothing without a group of airheads and reprobates to take down with its sickness and there just so happens to be precious cargo on the horizon. These consist of the usual suspects, bridegroom-in-waiting Marcus (Mitch Ryan) who appears to have taken leave of his testicles on the eve of his big day, his spineless best friend Dobbs (Ryan Donowho), along with Marcus’ bone-skulled brother Josh (Brando Eaton) and his impossibly sexy slut-on-a-rope girlfriend Penny (Jillian Murphy) who has designs on giving Marcus a little refresher course on her vagina before he takes his vows. They set sail and we rub our hands together in devilish glee at the prospect of watching them rot to death.
Once they dock and commence the ordinary weed-smoking and snorkeling shenanigans, it soon becomes clear that the virus has become very much aware. Cue an abundance of boils, blisters, pustules, and hives as haste suddenly becomes critical and those seemingly disaffected take off into the woods to find a good dermatologist. This is where Patient Zero falters. You could be forgiven for believing you were watching a late-night Sy Fy feature during a labored second act which consists of the customary search and rescue with all of the emphasis on search. We are also exposed to the facility’s discarded surplus and dank sub-levels are piled high with previous incurables to make it all the more mortifying. However, the true meat and potatoes of Cabin Fever has laid in its manifestation, not the end product, and we find ourselves craving a little freshly creeping flesh rather than checking crawlspaces for clues which aren’t ultimately going to stop poor Penny’s tits dropping off in the sand.
So we are left banking on that all-important final act to supply us with the grunge and thankfully Andrews’ film has bountiful grue to bank on to both disgust and delight as allegiances become split and those primed-to-pop pustules begin to explode in sickening unison. This culminates in one of the least sexy girl fights ever committed to celluloid whereby two scantily clad bunnies battle to the death with the assistance of a black dildo which appears to have been cast from Lou Ferrigno’s forearm and oodles of the splatter which has become synonymous with the series. The second installment takes some beating in this department and this never comes close to emulating its excess but that’s not to say you’ll be necking a burrito whilst watching. This is what we came for; when in doubt, spray it about.
Patient Zero is a decent straight-to-DVD schlock fest which benefits greatly from Astin’s astute performance and plentiful barf-inducing moments. High art it most certainly isn’t and, as a prequel to Roth’s original, it elaborates little on the deadly pathogen making it questionable as to whether or not the story even needed to be told in the first place. On this evidence, it is easy to see why plans for Outbreak were shelved although, should you be looking for some undemanding splatter minus the substance, then you should find just enough flesh on the bones to while away 90+ minutes. Not so much fever then as mild irritation.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: While never quite scaling the heights of the second installment, there is still more than enough snot and gunge on display to sate our appetites. Among the moments to savor include a lesson on the perils of a recoiling weapon, a caution against taking a blow to the face when infected, enough projectile vomit to make Regan MacNeil’s head spin, and that glorious girl-on-girl ruckus which leaves no outright winner, except for that gargantuan widow’s comforter. Evidently, cunnilingus is also a distinct no-no.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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