Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 1, 2014)
Jerry: “What, you rented Home Alone?”
Jerry: “I thought you saw that already.”
George: “No, I saw Home Alone II.”
Jerry: “Oh, right. But you hated it!”
George: “Well I was lost, I never saw the first one.”
I present this Seinfeld exchange as a preface to my screening of 2014’s Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. The third in the franchise, I never viewed the 2002 original or 2009’s Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.
So why start with the third in the series? Because the studio offered me a review copy and it sounded potentially interesting. That was good enough to send Patient Zero into my Blu-ray player.
In the Dominican Republic, a deadly virus spreads through a remote area and threatens to turn into a global pandemic. Only one survivor emerges: Porter (Sean Astin), a man the authorities dub “Patient Zero”, as he appears to be the only known carrier of the disease. After months of detainment and experiments, Porter attempts to deal with his captors.
In the meantime, a bunch of 20-something-year-old friends take a bachelor cruise in the Caribbean prior to the wedding of Marcus (Mitch Ryan) and Kate (Claudette Lali). As part of their trip, they find themselves on the same island where Porter remains located. Bad things happen.
Over the years, I’ve complained about the overuse of handheld camerawork a lot. After watching Zero, I feel tempted to go back to the filmmakers I criticized in earlier reviews and apologize - outside of Paul Greengrass and “found footage” films, few compare with the photographic horrors on display here.
Zero comes with easily some of the most obnoxious, nonsensical “shakycam” I’ve ever seen. The camera bobs and weaves so much of the time that it feels like every scene takes place on the water. This effect becomes so intense that it literally made some parts of the movie unwatchable; as the camera heaved and nothing stayed steady, the film turned into a jerky, nausea-inducing mess.
Not that I think Zero would’ve offered much even had it boasted superior cinematography, as nothing else about the film delivers any form of subtlety or effective movie-making. Characters and story seem superfluous the vast majority of the time. Sure, we get rudimentary background for the main participants, but we never develop any interest in them, and neither does the film itself; the people exist essentially to become victims.
Zero also often stretches credulity to advance its threadbare narrative. Some of that comes from the cavalier manner in which characters get exposed to the virus; those medical scientists don’t seem to worry a whole lot about contagion, as they take precious few precautions.
Perhaps even more bizarre, Zero stacks the deck for sex appeal where none would logically exist. Three others accompany Marcus on the cruise: brother Josh (Brando Eaton) and pals Penny (Jillian Murray) and Dobbs (Ryan Donawho).
Kate excuses Penny’s presence on the male-oriented trip because she’s “one of the guys”. Seriously? Has Kate actually seen Penny? But the movie doesn’t want to be a sausage-fest, so logic be damned – Penny goes on the boat! And then there’s the medical lab with the scientist who walks around with her shirt largely unbuttoned all the time – I’m sure that happens at most of the major research facilities.
Look, I get this is a genre film whose audience expects that kind of T&A, and I’m fine with that. I just would like to see more effort put into the logical inclusion of these elements rather than what we get here: idiocy that forces the viewer to ignore any form of intelligence to accept events. That goes for every aspect of the story, too, not just for the unrealistic inclusion of hot babes.
Really, Zero exists just to show us a lot of gross-out effects, and if you like that, you’ll probably enjoy the movie. It ladles on the gore with one disgusting scene after another.
I don’t mind the nastiness on display, as I can take that sort of footage. However, I’d like to see the gore service the story and not the reverse, which is what we find here. Zero invents disgusting gags and builds a movie around them, a development that leaves us with a dull affair almost wholly devoid of entertainment value.