Friday, February 19, 2016

The Return of Dr Mambo, or I Watched the Cabin Fever Reboot, So You Don't Have To

Say what you will about Eli Roth but Hostel (2005) was a clever movie. He took an outdated formula, turned it on its ears, cut off the ears and resurrected the 70’s grindhouse genre from the grave for the 21st century audience.  But much like M. Night Shyamalan, he has been making the basically the same movie since then, with ever diminishing returns. 
The original Cabin Fever (2003) was an interesting experiment in self-indulgent bio-terror.  The movie worked, for the most part, because of clever writing, an adequate cast and plot that became more and more absurd as the movie progressed.  It was equal parts funny and gruesome, and succeeded admirably in walking that indefinable tightrope between comedy and horror.  As Eli Roth’s first film and directorial debut Cabin Fever achieved a well-deserved cult status, and had the promise and potential for greater things.  And then he came out with Hostel and freaked out the entire world, so he delivered on that promise.
But now we live in a Twilight Zone alternate universe where any movie can be remade for no reason whatsoever and the latest contribution to the wasteland is the 2016 Cabin Fever remake.  It’s not shot for shot, like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (1998, with Viggo Mortensen, you know, Aragon) but features the same script by Eli Roth.  Yes, the leg-shaving scene is there, I know you were wondering.  Alas, there’s no harmonica death scene, and no creepy albino kung-fu kid.  The Dr. Mambo scene has been faithfully recreated but without the accompanying Eli Roth cameo it seems pointless and distracting.  It might have made a bit more sense if the new director, “Travis Z” had taken on the role of Grim but that was a missed opportunity in a movie essentially composed of missed opportunities.
Instead we have a new group of interchangeable selfish and self-centered college kids in the wood, but now with cell phones and Instagram accounts.  It’s the same bio virus and water contamination but without the random no random surreal violence or dark humor of the original it becomes a cheap simulacrum, or a color photocopy of a better movie. 
Note I said a better movie; Cabin Fever was not a great movie.  This isn’t a Sam Raimi in 1981 low budget Evil Dead getting a lot of big Hollywood bucks thrown at him so he remakes it and calls it Evil Dead II (1987) situation.  It’s more like George Lucas going back and adding more Jawas and Rontos to Mos Eisley Spaceport in Episode 4, and we all know how well that went.  And Eli Roth is no George Lucas (and I bet you never thought you’d read that sentence).
And then again, for what it’s worth, I’d have to say that the 2016 Cabin Fever remake is far superior to the 2013 Evil Dead remake.  This is what American Cinema has been reduced to; comparing the relative merits of mediocre remakes while the public demands more R-rated superhero movies.  It’s a crazy mixed up world, kids, and you don’t even know it. 
I vote for a remake of Captain Kronos,Vampire Hunter next.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.