Rider Strong as Paul
Giuseppe Andrew as Winston
Noah Segan as John
Alexi Wasser as Cassie
Rusty Kelly as Alex
Mark Borchardt as Herman
Directed by: Ti West
First things first: Ti West has not taken his name off this long-on-the-shelf sequel to Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever despite reportedly disowning his third feature. He remains credited as the director of Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, at least on the version that, on September 23, made its North American premiere to benefit the Austin School of Film. So Alan Smithee remains in seclusion.
You have to wonder why West wants to distance himself from Spring Fever, which unsurprisingly will skips theaters for a February DVD debut. He must have known what he was getting into when he signed on to direct a sequel to a genre-bending gorefest that many horror aficionados love to hate. This was never going to be high art or a personal endeavor, like his gravely solemn occult thriller The House of the Devil that opens October 30 (talk about a study in contrasts: Spring Fever‘s as loose as a stool, The House of the Devil‘s as serious as a viral epidemic). West wasn’t involved in the final cut, but producer Lauren Moews tells ShockTillYouDrop.com that Spring Fever retains 90 percent of West’s edited version. The remaining 10 percent can be partly attributed to John Waters’ editor Janice Hampton, who punched up Spring Fever so it plays even more like one of the cult director’s trademark gross-out comedies.
I’m not an Eli Roth hater, but Cabin Fever often struggled to find a balance between its go-for-the-jugular shocks and frat-boy humor. Spring Fever works on its own terms because West decides early that he just wants to go for laughs, beginning with an animated opening credits that comically shifts the action from the backwoods to a small-town high school. They maintain a consistent humorous tone even when things turn decidedly nasty. This is Evil Dead II fueled by raging teenage hormones.
The anything-goes Spring Fever – co-written by the returning Randy Pearlstein -picks up where its predecessor left off with one bloody splat. To say more would be to spoil the filmâs only true surprise. Let’s just say that it allows us to reacquaint ourselves with that hard-partying cop, Deputy Winston (Giuseppe Andrews, kookier than before). All that booze and pot hasn’t completely robbed Winston of his instincts. He deduces that the flesh-eating virus that ruined Rider Strong et al.’s weekend getaway will spread through contaminated bottle water. So he races off to locate the shipment to save the day.
Too late. A case of bottled water ends up in the greasy hands of a bunch of horny high school seniors preparing for that night’s prom. If you have seen Cabin Fever, it’s easy to spot the infected among the revelers. Otherwise, just look for the open sores, loose teeth, and violent coughing fits. West takes his sweet time allowing hell to breaks out soon after prom starts. It’s at this point that Spring Fever strays into [Rec]/Quarantine territory, as government agents lock down the high school to curb the outbreak.
Stuck in the middle of this mayhem are brainiac John (an amiable Noah Segan, from Deadgirl), his childhood crush Cassie (a quirky Alexi Wasser), and his mouthy best pal Alex (Rusty Kelley, channeling Seth Rogen). As the bodies pile up, they seek a way out of the school without getting shot or infected. Easier said than done.
There are precious few moments in Spring Fever that are intended to actually scare you out of your seat (a confrontation with a pregnant teen, though, is disturbing). Instead, West tries to goes for broke trying to gross us out with all the projectile vomiting, severed limbs, and blister-riddled breasts that’s on display.
That said, West doesn’t appear interested in topping what Roth did with Cabin Fever but to go beyond the envelope-pushing sexual antics of American Pie and Scary Movie. This is, after all, a 1980s-tinged high school sex farce that happens to have an immeasurable body count. So West almost throws at us as much man juice to as he does blood and guts. Pity the poor infected student – previously a recipient of a revenge BJ – who discovers all sorts of disgusting stuff oozing out of his penis.
Some of this is sophomoric as you imagine it would be. Is it really that amusing to watch a pissed-off janitor pee into a bowl of fruit punch? Even if he’s infected and his urine’s as red as Cabernet Sauvignon? Still, West more often than not succeeds in turning around the conventions established in the 1980s by the likes of Porky’s on their head. When the prom king strips down to his birthday suit for a quickie with a virgin three times his weight, you expect his buddies to jump out and mock her for falling for such a cruel joke. Doesn’t happen, so kudos to West for often refusing to make the obvious joke.
Spring Fever ends as it begins, with an animated sequences accompanying the closing credits to establish the next chapter in the franchise. Another Cabin Fever? Yes. Are you up for it? You might be after Spring Fever even if you couldn’t stand Cabin Fever. Too bad West won’t be back to finish what Roth started.