AICN HORROR talks with director/comic book writer/artist Kaare Andrews about the ultra-gory CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO! Plus a review of the film!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I’ve been a fan of Kaare Andrews’ comic book work for years, but recently, he has come into his own as a filmmaker with the inventive ALTITUDE from a couple of years back and now with the third installment of Eli Roth’s gorefest CABIN FEVER, this one subtitled PATIENT ZERO. I had a chance to catch up with Mr. Andrews about this ultra-gory installment of the CABIN FEVER film series.
Here’s what transpired…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): First off, for those who may not be familiar with the CABIN FEVER films and your entry in particular, PATIENT ZERO, what's your elevator pitch for the film for the masses?
KAARE ANDREWS (KA): Cabin Fever is a franchise about the wonders of an uncontrollable and highly contagious flesh eating disease, that is absurd, extreme and horrifying. CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO is a stand alone film in that shared universe and features the talents of Sean Astin as... SPOILER ALERT: Patient Zero.
BUG: What directions did the producers give you upon coming onto this project given that the previous entry; CABIN FEVER: SPRING FEVER wasn't very well received?
KA: There were no reservations about this project or how it was done from anyone else. The reservations were completely my own. I had followed the whole Cinderalla story of the making of the first CABIN FEVER movie right here on Aint' It Cool News. It all happened right about the time I was first starting out, myself. Eli Roth was a little older than me and had been in the trenches a little longer. And it was very inspiring to sort of watch the buzz build up to the screening at the Toronto Film Festival that led to that very big and important sale. I then followed the film's journey to the masses, saw it in the theatres and eagerly devoured the special edition DVD. It really became a cult hit, and very quickly.
But the second effort, from all parties involved both filmmakers and audience, is really considered a bit of a debacle. And as a fan, I had no interest in watching it, based purely on all the bad buzz. So, when I was offered the job of CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, it really was a strange situation. How do you follow up a huge cult hit that was preceded by a disastrous sequel? As a director, you gotta understand this can easily be interpreted as real career-ending stakes.
But at the end of the day, I like to make choices out of confidence and not fear. And after being pursued for long enough, I decided to just roll the dice and literally, head into the jungle... not knowing what horrors might show up.
BUG: The obvious difference is that you take the virus out of the woods and into the tropics for this one. Where did that idea come from?
KA: This was purely a financial decision. Our money was coming out of a group of bankers from the Dominican Republic and the DR also promised us some tax incentives. So, that was a decision made before the script was initiated and before I was ever involved. But it was a beautiful country with some amazing people.
Part of my objective was to try to capture some of that flavor. Because although we were shooting in this country with amazing tropics and with a script written with jungles, resorts and beaches-- we were actually stationed in a large dirty city, hours away from any of that. And we didn't have the money to travel to many of these places because as soon as we traveled more than an hour outside of the city, you have to start putting the local crew up in hotels. You would never know it, but half of the "jungle" locations we filmed in were actually a sort of empty lot once filled with garbage. We had to clean it all out and pay off the local bums who were camping there.
It was the underground caves that were the most accessible to us. They were a in Santo Domingo and had actually once been used as an underground night club in the 80's. Of course, by the time we got there the whole place was a toxic disaster zone with two foot mold spores growing out of the ceiling and live wires exposed everywhere. We sent in a clean-team and had that place made safe. In fact, we did such a good job that the owners decided to try to start renting it out as a nightclub again-- DURING SHOOTING. So, not only did they host this crazy Halloween party with thousands of people partying through our sets but about once a week, every Friday afternoon, beer and waitresses would start showing up and dance music would start pumping through the caves. Every time I was promised it would never happen again and every time it did. We ended up shooting those afternoons MOS (without sound), tense and dangerous scenes, with Pitbull booming through the hallways. This is just a little of the crazy we had to roll with as part of the Dominican ways of doing business.
During shooting, we were hit with Hurricane Sandy, flooding, student riots, people getting shot and killed. Santo Domingo was a crazy city. We also had food poisoning, sea sickness, injuries, every day another person was succumbing to the madness. Even the locals were getting sick, while we were making this movie about people getting sick. It was very meta.
The resort was very real and amazing. Run by a handsome insurance man we called the Dominican Cary Grant or "Pappo". It allowed us access to boats and the water and even some jungle locations-- but no beaches. The whole movie was a big puzzle. We stole beach scenes mostly from that cleaned up junk lot in Santo Domingo.
BUG: Doing a film about a flesh-eating virus, did I make you germ-phobic as things got messier?
KA: In the real world, we are hosts to millions of viruses every day. It's only when a virus jumps species that it becomes a problem. The reason why the bird-flu is called that is because it jumped from birds to humans. That's the real danger, when we don't have built in defenses to otherwise harmless viruses.
In real life Flesh Eating Disease is a bacteria, not a virus. So you can treat it with high doses of antibiotics. Antibiotics have zero effect on a virus. Part of the accidental genius of Cabin Fever is depicting a bacteria that travels in virus form. That would be a unique and lethal combination. Our Fever is transmissible through blood, water and exposure. A bacteria could only ever enter through a small open wound or bug bite.
The real freaky thing about a virus is that it defies definition. Scientists literally can not classify it as either dead or alive. It simple "activates" under the right circumstances, and then hijacks biology, turning its host into a virus factory.
BUG: The transmission of the virus is an aspect often played with in these films and much of the fun to be had here is creating new and different ways to pass it from one victim to the next. I have to mention the cunnilingus scene because I have to admit it's a nightmare I've often had, but thankfully have never had it realized. What do you have to say about doing that scene?
KA: This was the one scene that was a very deliberate call-back to the first film, an homage and a one-upmanship to the "Fingerbang Back-fire" scene. The script was completely written before I came on board and so I didn't have a lot of say into the fundamental underpinnings of the story but I spent a lot of energy trying to get some of the "Cabin Fever" back into the movie. And I knew I wanted to focus on the sexuality, the humor and the gore. Originally this scene was written as kind of a generic "skin starts to fall off, revealing a bloody open wound during lotion application" and I just sort of targeted it for a much bigger thing.
Eli wrote me a very nice email before I started, saying that a CABIN FEVER movie can withstand just about any kind of crazy you can throw at it-- so to just go for it. And I took that to heart in a few places.
BUG: This is an ultra-gory film. Did you have much experience working with practical effects coming into this film?
KA: I have a childhood love of make-up and special effects. I used to devour books like Dick Smith's Monster Making Handbook or Tom Savini's Bizarro (later retitled Grande Illusions or something). I used to give book reports and read Cinemagic magazine. I'm at a point now where I can do some computer based visual effects myself but I always think gore needs to be done for real. Computers are great at replicating or constructing. They are not so good at things that are organic.
It was a great treat to work with Vincent Guastini. We were a VERY LOW BUDGET FILM. I mean-- very low. And we gave Vincent very little money to work with. But it was so important to me that this film really did all it could to highlight this area. I think we really got it right. We didn't have all the money and time in the world to make it as gore-crazy as it could be... but by focusing on a few key areas, I think we pulled off some great stuff.
The highlight of which is our "Fleshless Catfight". This was Lydia's last day of shooting and Jillian's first. They each had to go through 9 hours of make-up before shooting all night on our "junk beach". I mean these are actors, not stunt people, and we had to get the whole thing in one go. Originally, I had this scheduled for a two day shoot with stunt people that we could really bang up but we just didn't have the money.
So all night, on a beach next to a propane fuelled fire pit and covered in head to toe make-up, and with special break-away gags and stunts we constructed this fight. I very much wanted it to feel like a western. Two cowboys facing off. But instead of guns, they just sort of pull the flesh off of one another. I had never seen anything like this on film before and I knew, if anything, this is a scene that would define the movie. And you kind of just have to go for it-- it's so ridiculous, gory and unique-- you have to give it your all to make it work.
BUG: What was it like working with Sean Astin?
KA: Sean was amazing. So much energy. He threw himself at the production like I had never seen another actor do it. He was looking for a horror movie to do, he had never done one, and we were lucky enough to grab him. Sean told me that he really enjoys a smaller production. I mean he's done so many huge films, I think sometimes you can feel lost in the machine of it all. But with a smaller film, an actor can invest himself in the process.
In fact, on one of our off days (maybe our only one) Sean stole a bunch of crew and went off to a waterfall and directed his own short film! Then showed up for work the next day. Amazing amounts of energy and he really gave me some great material to work with in the edit room.
BUG: Being the comic book guy here on AICN as well, I am very familiar with your comic book work. In what ways has your career as a comic book artist/writer influenced your directing style?
KA: Well, I'm in a weird place. In comics, I'm at a point where I can own the whole process. I can write, pencil, ink and color a book like Iron Fist and be supported and trusted in every aspect of creation. But as a director, I'm kind of just starting out and I haven't worked my way up yet. So a film like CABIN FEVER, I'm hired after the story is written, a lot of things are in place. I'm part of a conversation. I'm collaborating and contributing but I'm not "owning it" just yet. I'm very excited about a film I'm developing right now, my own story, my own script and my own process. It will be the first film I can really call my own. And I'm excited to just sort of create with abandon, like I can in comics.
To more directly answer your question, when I'm at my best on set, it really feels like I'm painting with people. When things are really gelling, it's a strange feeling, like I'm alone at a desk drawing pictures. But to get there I'm dealing with a hundred people, storyboarding my own shots, designing my own sets, choosing lenses, lighting, editing and even contributing some of the visual effects work. Because on a film with this budget you have to work harder than if you had more money, more help.
BUG: Coming from an industry that has no budget limitations (comic books), was it difficult to transition to a world where everything is limited by budget be it the kind of actors you get, to the effects, to the edits, to the craft services?
KA: I love the differences between the two mediums. Comics is me alone in my studio, where directing is me leading a crew of a hundred people. I think of it as my yin and my yang. My introverted art making versus my extroverted art making. The luxury of comics is that you can own every failure and celebrate every success-- as an individual. In film, I think David Fincher said it best, it's like being a quarterback of a football team: you get too much credit when you win, and too much blame when you lose.
BUG: Would you do another CABIN FEVER film if given the opportunity?
KA: I only ever signed up for the one. But I'd love to work with some of the same people again. I was really looking forward to seeing where they would go after this film, as it was originally slated to be filmed back-to-back with another script. They just couldn't get that script working in time. I'm not sure where they are with things at the moment. There have been rumors of a remake of the original but I have no confirmation if that's actually going to happen.
BUG: What else do you have coming up in both comics and film?
KA: Pick up IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON! Issues 1-3 are in stores now (if you can find 'em) and #4 hits stores July 2nd. Being away from comics to do CABIN FEVER really built up some pent up comics energy and I'm having the time of my life. But as I mentioned earlier, I also have another film that I'm developing, so we'll see what happens there. It's more of a next-level action movie and in many ways lives in the same genre as Iron Fist.
BUG: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions and best of luck with the film!
KA: Thanks so much!
BUG: CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO is available this week on BluRay/DVD and digital download. After the trailer is my review of the film!
New this week on DVD/BluRay from RLJ Entertainment!
CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO (2014)CABIN FEVER 3
Directed by Kaare Andrews
Written by Jake Wade Wall (screenplay)
Starring Sean Astin, Currie Graham, Ryan Donowho, Brando Eaton, Jillian Murray, Mitch Ryan, Solly Duran, Lydia Hearst, Claudette Lali, Juan 'Papo' Bancalari,
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of CABIN FEVER, I will say I enjoyed it for what it was. The film delivered in the gore department and even had quite a bit of the blackest of humor. Throw in some well placed shudders of utter paranoia and disgust in terms of twinging those germophobic gag reflexes and you have a film that leaves a mark.
While I missed the Ti West directed middle chapter (and from what I head, I actually didn’t miss much), I was pretty excited going into this third installment in the CABIN FEVER series mainly because of the inclusion of Kaare Andrews. Knowing Andrews from his work in comics and the decent little plane horror flick ALTITUDE, I was intrigued to see how Andrews’ comic book sensibilities would play out with a decent budget and talented cast.
And this film has both. While it isn’t blockbuster status, CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO does have fun with the flesh-eating virus concept by moving the locale from a cabin in the woods to a tropical retreat, following a group of lifelong friends going on one last huzzah before one of their own (Marcus, played by Mitch Ryan) gets married. Along on the trip is Marcus’ wild child brother Josh (played by the son of Trinity on DEXTER Brando Eaton), his noble best friend Dobbs (the James Franco-esque Ryan Donowho), and hottie tomboy Penny (Jillian Murray). Going off on a yacht to an uncharted island, the crew find sandy beaches, lapping waves, and scores of dead fish floating under the surface of the water. Writing the dead fish off to sharks, the crew continues to party, but unknowingly become infected with a virus of the worst kind. At the same time, at the other end of the uncharted isle, in a locked down facility, a man named Porter (Sean Astin) is being held against his will by scientists who claim that his resistance to infection from a disease may be the key to stopping a global outbreak.
The thing Andrews does with this film is that it ups the ante from a secluded shack in the middle of nowhere to a virus of massive proportions. While the film doesn’t go full on CONTAGION on us, it does raise the stakes and makes the dangers of spreading this disease much more potent. The fact that it has already infected the fish surrounding the isle suggests that no matter how much the scientists try to contain the virus, it’s already too late. But while this is a bigger film, Andrews is able to maintain that intimacy that made CABIN FEVER effective in the first place. As with the original, when characters touch, breathe, sneeze, cough, or merely walk by each other, there’s a palpable sense of danger in the air. Given that half of the film, the kids don’t know they are infected and go about sharing bottles of beer and swapping saliva and other body fluids makes it all the more ooky.
But it’s not just the tone of the film that makes it an effective bout of germophobia. The over the top gore is going to please a lot of AICN HORROR readers. For the most part, everything is practical and things get increasingly messy as the movie goes on. The opening sequence (which I’ll get to later) is filled with all sorts of rotted away body parts covered in slime, blood, and ooze. While the opening scenes are the aftermath of the last outbreak and the infected are already dead, later in the film we see the outbreak on the living and it gets even more over the top as body parts are ripped off, melted away, and simply slide off by themselves. Sequences like an infected girl-fight on the beach and a cunnilingus scene like no other ever put to film are two of many sequences that would have my guts heave if I wasn’t laughing out loud so hard.
While Andrews does a lot right here, there is an over-reliance on the old slo mo shots. While it’s awesome over the title sequence as Astin’s Porter is captured by infection suit wearing agents with machine guns, the technique is used again and again later in the film with less of an effect with each use. On top of that, the narrative itself gets a bit muddy at the end. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense. It’s just that there’s a lot going on that feels gratuitous like the bloody girlfight and the extraneous ending that goes on a little too long. The ending itself makes it feel as if it was answering questions I never really cared to ask and felt kind of lackluster as soon as the survivors leave the island.
Still, CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO does what a good sequel should. It maintains the tone of the original while upping the ante and creatively running with some of the themes present in the first film. The gore is excellent, as is the acting. And with some scenes that are bound to go down as classics (I’m still squirming at the cunnilingus scene), there’s a lot of CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO worth catching.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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