"Sometimes it's necessary to harm one in hopes of saving millions." - Camila
Some guy, Porter, is dragged into a medical lab to be treated like basically a lab rat after his son dies from a raging disease. Porter is a carrier of a deadly fast acting flesh virus. He also seems to have an affinity to mice or at least the Three Blind Mice song that gets important toward the end of the movie. Dr Edwards, who heads up the lab seems to be more interested in self-promotion than in actually helping humanity, Porter becomes his guinea pig. Naturally the virus can't be contained and breaks out amongst the lab staff and into the wild. On the bright side of Petri dish at least the outbreak is contained to a single remote Island off most maps.
Marcus arrives in the Dominican Republic to marry Katia; also in attendance are his brother Josh and Josh's girlfriend Penny, and Marcus' business partner Dobbs. The three whisk Marcus off on a rented yacht for a bachelor party which takes part on a remote Island off most maps. Josh and Penny go snorkelling because they want to check out the reef fish, unfortunately for our aqua adventurers all the fish are dead and decaying. Later Penny complains about an itch that gets steadily worse and Josh is starting to show symptoms as well. Marcus and Dobbs head toward a building they noted on landing on the Island in an attempt to get help and all hell breaks loose.
Eli Roth broke into the spotlight with the original Cabin Fever (2002), a movie that has become a cult favourite amongst gorenography fans who need car keys rattled in their faces, a sequel Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009) naturally followed though even director Ti West was disowning this one which to be honest was a complete mess. Naturally, since there is a buck to be made, the third movie arrived in 2014 as a sort of prequel I guess. Unfortunately for the wayward viewer who has dialled into this movie director Kaare Andrews is trying a little too much to go down the gorenography road without attempting to first construct a coherent plot. But, and this is a solid but, Patient Zero by avoiding trying to be clever is a superior movie to the original Cabin Fever.
Director Kaare Andrews gets this one out of the harbour in solid style, with Porter being caught and pretty much imprisoned by the reserved Doctor Edwards. The doctor is setup as almost a villain in the first couple of acts of the movie and can be directly blamed for the escape of the virus into the staff of the medical facility. Interestingly we get some differing philosophical views from the main staff members, ranging from personal survival to working to get a solution to a potential pandemic breakout. This could have been an interesting avenue to go down in more detail but Andrews drops it for what we have come to expect from a Cabin Fever movie, explicit gore. But still interesting that time is taken to explore differing medical approaches. And to round out our brief discussion on the good Doctor Edwards, the dude definitely has his own agenda of self-promotion and perhaps an even more nefarious purpose. Unfortunately the Doctor's motivations, while highlighting his personality, gets lost in what amounts to a muddle final act.
On a better note director Andrews does spend some quality time developing his 20 something leads, who are pretty much meat for the grinder end of day. Unfortunately the characters he paints here are pretty much cardboard cut outs of privileged white suburbia. Don't expect to form any sort of a relationship with the four, they are all venal self-absorbed folk without any sort of really redeeming qualities. Under pressure they naturally turn on each like rabid dogs with perhaps only Marcus redeeming himself. Don't get me started on Josh or Dobbs and Penny is pretty much down for the count early on, though she does try and seduce Marcus prior to hitting the beaches and catching the local virus.
The central premise of this movie however is gore, more gore, and extreme gore. The effects of the virus are shown in graphic detail, this movie isn't for the faint of heart, and doesn't even attempt to try and uncover anything remotely interesting in the human condition. Now while we can expect a certain amount of the red stuff to be splattering the screen Andrews simply goes overboard and it becomes something of a farce. Think one of the lobbed off limbs outings the Monty Python troop used to regularly indulge in, are we meant to be shocked by this? Stephen King sort of stated that the gross out was the lowest form of horror and he would use it if he had nothing else, Andrews has nothing else, there is no tension or dread being built up in this one. So gorehounds are going to be happy with what is on offer here, the rest of us are at best simply going to shrug or at worse see if there isn't another option for their viewing benefit.
Perhaps the bloodiest scene in the movie, and this should underline my general premise that the movie doesn't work because of the gore, is the show down between virus infected Penny and advanced virus infected female Doctor. Trying not to serve up spoilers here, but in an extremely poorly staged and lighted scene the ladies basically rip each other apart. Giger's alien would have approved of the amount of carnage going down here, talk about your cat fight that got out of control, your maiden aunt Ethel may need to leave the room as limbs are torn asunder and the halls are decked with guts and entrails.
And just in case those amongst us that enjoy some naked flesh on the screen think they may be missing out, there are some naughty bits being shown and a couple of sex scenes. If the word gratuitous comes to mind then you would be pretty much right, Andrews is seeking to connect to his audience, which is pretty ludicrous when you think about it, but fails to really understand what that audience is. Patient Zero becomes a grab bag of perceived horror requirements rather than a detailed examination of what a scary movie might achieve under skilled hands. But hey if boobs are your thing then Jillian Murray (Penny) isn't afraid to show off the girls.
So some good news kids, and once again I'll reiterate like an English lit professor on steroids Patient Zero is for mine the better instalment in the trilogy. For the first two acts the movie might be doing things by the book but it actually delivers on the requirements. We get to meet all the leads, get enough about their characters to understand their motivations, and have the situation explained enough to be ready for the meltdown in the third act. Unfortunately the third act tries way too hard to be clever with some seemingly shock twists that it loses its plot lines. By the final couple of scenes I was thinking, you can't seriously believe people are going to be good to go with this half-baked development, though it did explain the mice thing, dumbly to be honest.
At least the production values aren't labouring under Asylum levels of ineptitude, though laying on a heavily professional movie without understanding how the dark genre ticks would on the face of things seem to be at best a trade off in craft. After ten or so years of blissful sleep from this franchise I am somewhat surprised that a director like Andrews who clearly knows what he is doing would consent to doing anything with a script that was clearly written by someone who is one step away from serving up burgers in a local fast food restaurant. There's some solid scenery going down and a hint the Director can do a hell of a lot better.
Laying my cards on the table here, I had only a mild interest in seeing Patient Zero, and probably wouldn't have if it didn't appear in my Netflix queue. Thank you to the streaming service for taking time out of their busy schedule to hook me up to this one. While this melting pot of a movie might not be the best one I'll see in 2018 it was still a hell of a lot better than the previous two movies and actually threw on a coherent plot for once. While Eli Roth's first flick was an attempt at being clever to fool the cult crowd, the second movie Spring Fever can best be described as a journey through everything you can do wrong in a horror flick. I might not have overly liked the characters in Patient Zero, thought the gore was over the top, and had some problems with the script the movie still managed to keep things moving in a reasonable fashion. Patient Zero will retain your interest, keep watching for the twists and explanations, while not delivering anything to take you out of the daily grind of Hollywood cookie cutters. Mild recommendation folks, you aren't going to be missing much if you give this one a miss but hey if needing to round out your Cabin Fever dance card then get infected. My last word on this one would be I would have zero patience in a second viewing of Cabin Fever 3, but would still dial in to one if the only choices were this one or the original.