So…there’s a special place in my heart for direct-to-video horror sequels. And I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s because, when I was younger, my parents used to give me a wad of cash and let me wander the old “Video Giant” and pick out horror movies in October as part of their “seven movies for seven dollars for seven days,” and I would find the worst crap imaginable. (I actually rented every single “Puppet Master” movie, and I don’t think ANY of them was ever released in a theater)
Over the past few years, perhaps in an effort to relive my creature-feature childhood years, I’ve rented and DVR’d such direct-to-video greats as “Stir of Echoes 2: The Homecoming,” “Wrong Turn 2,” “The Boogeyman 2,” “The Descent II,” and “The Mangler Part II.” Yes, I know. Most of the originals weren’t even good (the original “Mangler” wasn’t even just bad…it was abominable), and I never really have any delusions that the new installment will be watchable. I just keep renting and renting these low-budget sequels, regardless of quality, regardless of track record. Why do I do this to myself?
“Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” was my latest poor choice.
And, of course, I should have known better than to expect brilliance, right? This was a mean-spirited film, a movie that misidentified the strengths of the original, and in an effort to continue the story and “give audience more of what they wanted,” simply gave us everything that we did NOT want.
The original “Cabin Fever” works because it understands horror movies, and it slowly builds the dread and the dark atmosphere, occasionally giving gentle nods to the many different horror films that has inspired it. Then, once we’re hooked, once we’re really into it, it goes crazy. Over-the-top. Scary-gory at first, then funny-gory as a way to relieve the tension. Was it a good movie? I don’t know. A lot of people hated it. But I enjoyed it because it was so patient in its development of the horror, and because Eli Roth obviously seemed to care about horror movies, and you could feel the energy and passion of his filmmaking in every scene. It’s no wonder he eventually palled up with Quentin Tarantino.
But “Cabin Fever 2” gets it wrong. Basically, the filmmakers here decided that the only reasons that anyone enjoyed “Cabin Fever” were (a) It had hillbillies, and hillbillies are funny, and (b) It had wince-inducing gore.
So this movie does indeed have hillbillies, and it does indeed have wince-inducing gore. From the very start. And every gory scene seems to want to one-up anything we saw in the original “Cabin Fever.” From strip club scenes to fellatio in a high school bathroom, this movie just piles it on. But it doesn’t seem like the filmmakers are having fun with it; it just seems like they want us to be uncomfortable. And…well…mission accomplished. If the first “Cabin Fever” was a love letter to horror films, then “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever” is like a comment from a rival fan on a sports message board. The gore isn’t scary, and it isn’t funny. And the experience of the film does make us turn our heads and cover our eyes, but we aren’t experiencing the thrill of a great horror film; we’re just waiting for the entire thing to be over.