One criticism often lobbed against remakes is that they dumb down the originals. “Cabin Fever,” the namesake remake of Eli Roth’s 2003 directorial debut, is guilty as charged.
Director Travis Z forgoes character introduction and development such that the main roles (including “Teen Wolf’s” Gage Golightly) are virtually interchangeable. It doesn’t help that what passes for acting here seems more like a table read. The scene with Bert (Dustin Ingram) returning to the country store for help is notably perfunctory and insipid.
The filmmaker deliberately sanitizes the offensive bits in the original that disparaged rednecks, blacks and gays, and refashions a rape into consensual sex, glossing over the sleaziness of the characters. He excises a crucial reveal involving the hermit, Henry (Randy Schulman), in favor of a cheap scare later on with little payoff. The arbitrary gender reversals of the bit parts prove inconsequential.
Roth isn’t exactly known for being critically defensible or for exercising directorial restraint, but Travis Z somehow manages to up the gore quotient. Still, one can’t even chalk that up as an improvement on the original.
Skipping the ominous ending of its progenitor, the remake appears all the more irrelevant in light of real-life horrors.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD