Sometimes They Come Back is here to take a look at the horror genre and its love for remakes! We’ll be discussing both the original movie and its remake (sometimes multiple remakes) in detail before deciding who comes out on top! Are the originals always the best? Let’s find out!
Cabin Fever (2002)
In this edition of Sometimes They Come Back, we’re looking at something that comes up quite a lot in horror movies – a remake that is basically a shot-for-shot re-do of the original movie, and leaves you questioning why they thought it was a good idea in the first place *cough* Psycho (1998) *cough*.
The fact that Cabin Fever (2002) has already been remade is even more shocking because it only came out 16 years ago. Films that I went to see at the cinema are now being remade, which does nothing to make me feel less old. However, when the remake popped up on Netflix a couple of weeks ago, I thought I would give it a watch and see how the two movies matched up against each other.
Cabin Fever opens with a hermit roaming the forest. A hermit who is smart enough to kill a rabbit, but not smart enough to realise that his dog is super dead from about a mile away. This thing looks like it died about a month ago, and he’s there trying to tempt it with a tasty snack. In his bid to rouse the dog, he causes it to split open and gush blood all over his face.
We then cut to a group of college kids loaded into a car, celebrating the end of their finals. I wonder how many groups of young people have spent the last few weeks of their lives studying for exams for no reason because they’ll be dead soon? So many horror movies start this way.
The group are on their way to a cabin in the middle of the woods (standard) and stop at a small store on the way which is run by country bumpkin-type folk (again, standard) to pick up some supplies for their trip. The hillbillies are a little bit Royston Vasey, very casually racist, but not overly murderous like a lot of horror movies. The weirdest thing about them is Dennis, the son of one of the shop workers who likes to bite people who sit next to him.
When we arrive at the cabin Jeff and Marcy immediately start having sex, Bert heads off into the woods to shoot some squirrels with his air rifle, and Paul decides to pine over Karen, who he has fancied since they were kids but has yet to make a move.
In typical ‘only character without a romantic storyline’ fashion, Bert goes off on his own and makes bad decisions, one of which is accidentally shooting the hermit from the beginning of the film. While the hermit is obviously pissed off that he’s been shot, he’s also quite obviously infected with some soft of skin-eating disease. Bert runs off, with promises of bringing back help, but he either forgets or has no intention of calling someone, and doesn’t seem to give the infected man who knows where they’re staying a second thought.
Later that night the group are sitting around the campfire, telling stories and drinking, when Justin (played by director Eli Roth himself) and his dog Dr Mambo show up, looking for someone to share their weed with. Apparently the character of Justin is beloved by the fans, but honestly, I think that’s a rumour Roth has been spreading himself because he adds nothing to the story. Well apart from Dr Mambo, who will show up later and is far more significant. During their campfire discussions, Bert and Jeff decide to try and drink nothing but beer for the rest of the trip.
Justin heads off to protect his camp against the rain but promises to return later (with the weed, which is the most crucial factor for Karen), and the group heads inside. When they receive a knock at the door a short time later, they assume it’s Justin, so Jeff happily opens the door only to be greeted by the rotting hermit.
Why are infected people in horror movies so selfish? They never get that it would be a good idea to stay away from other people and maybe not infect them as well. You’re fucked pal; you saw your dog, perhaps just go off and die alone. Instead, he decides to break into the group’s car and vomit as much infected blood inside it as possible. As the group try to drive him away, they end up pretty much destroying their only means of escape and accidentally setting the hermit on fire, who then flees into the forest. As a final “fuck you” to the group, the hermit dies in the local water supply, which just so happens to supply the cabin’s taps. Great.
Karen, for some reason, immediately begins consuming as much water as possible. Honestly, you never see her without a beverage from this point forward. And of course, when she starts to feel sick, water continually gets pushed on her by other members of the group as well.
Bert and Jeff decide to head out to find help as their car is now significantly broken and stumble across a farmer, who is mid-pig-slaughter. The pig’s insides are green and infected looking, and she comments that something is running around these woods infecting all the animals because a lot of things have been dying. After assessing that Bert and Jeff aren’t from her pig supplier, she happily agrees to radio town to get them a mechanic. Unfortunately for the group they find out the farmer is the hermit’s cousin, and they decide to flee rather than call for help! Considering they were just going to call a mechanic and not the police, and she knows they are staying in the cabin anyway, I don’t understand why they didn’t just get help! Just maybe don’t mention you burned her cousin to death and you might be fine.
Meanwhile, the police have shown up at the cabin, after apparently hearing a disturbance during the night. Deputy Winston is a total party cop and is more concerned with leering at Karen than he is with finding out what happened. He says he’ll make a report, but not to worry about the hermit coming back. He also promises to send out a mechanic the next morning to help them. Everything seems to be coming up roses for the gang – what a stroke of luck!
Sadly it doesn’t last long, as a newly infected Dr Mambo shows up when the group is washing their blood-soaked car. Marcy scares him off with the air rifle for the time being, but it’s clear he’ll be back.
Karen, who has been getting sicker and sicker, is using this time to have a nap in her bed. Paul decides to join her and after spending about 20 years in love with her he decides now is the perfect chance to make his move – while she’s asleep and very obviously ill. What a fucking creep. Frankly, he deserves to immediately catch the infection from her for his complete lack of knowledge of consent, and his reward is a handful of her rotting crotch area. The rest of the group understandably freak out and decide to move Karen to the woodshed to keep her separate from the rest of them until help shows up in the morning.
Paul again sets out to find help and comes across a house which Bert and Jeff found earlier, though it was empty at the time. This time it is occupied by a naked woman, lighting candles and draping her mermaid-esque hair everywhere. Paul … you literally just touched up your rotting friend, and you’re still enough of a horny fuckboy to stand and stare at this naked woman rather than try and get help. Before Paul gets the chance to do anything useful the woman’s husband finds him perving on her, and runs Paul off his land with a gun. Well done Paul.
In the morning, there’s no sign of help, but Bert manages to get the car started by himself, and they decide to make a break for it. Rather than go and bring help to Karen, they decide to move the now almost decomposed Karen into the car, where she predictably vomits blood everywhere. We just cleaned this car, Karen! This is why we can’t have nice things. Bert has also started coughing blood, even though he literally had his first sip of water rather than beer the night before, and knowing he’s pretty much screwed, decides to drive off into town by himself to get help.
Jeff and the hanky he keeps covering his mouth with have had enough of people projectile vomiting blood all over the place, so he grabs two packs of beer and runs off into the woods. It’s worrying when he’s literally the smartest character in the whole movie at this point.
Marcy, distraught at her boyfriend leaving, and her friend dying in the shed decides the only course of action left is to have sex with Paul. I mean, we’ve already established he can get a boner in any situation, so why would a flesh-eating disease put him off? In a detail I missed as a teenager, he pours mouthwash on his penis when they’re done, so he’s probably fine …
Marcy is left with deep finger marks on her back after the incident, confirming to her that she is indeed infected as well. Paul leaves the house AGAIN to try and find help and Jeff, and Marcy takes the only reasonable course of action left and has a bath.
Meanwhile, Bert has made it to town, and for some reason has gone back to the shop with the slightly threatening staff members. The shopkeeper agrees to get help but tells Bert to stay where he is. Now, this is a weird movie, but this scene has to be one of the stupidest things I have ever watched. Dennis (the biting kid from earlier) starts screaming “pancakes” at Bert, then pulls out some excellent slow-motion karate, before finally biting Bert on the hand. Obviously less than happy that Bert has potentially infected his kid, the shopkeeper and his friends head off in pursuit as Bert flees.
Double meanwhile, Marcy is shaving her already perfectly smooth legs. Who has time to shave their legs on a regular day, never mind when all your friends are dying? It’s all going so well until she starts shaving chunks out of her leg and freaks out.
Paul has finally done something useful and has found the dead hermit in the water supply, though I sense it’s a little late at this point, and he doesn’t share this information with anyone apart from screaming it into the empty woods in the hopes that Jeff will hear.
Marcy ventures outside to find Dr Mambo waiting for her, and he promptly rips her apart. He then breaks into the woodshed and starts eating Karen as well. Honestly, if they had just killed this dog when it first showed up things would be a bit easier now.
When Paul returns, he finds parts of Marcy everywhere, and Karen being snacked on, so he finally kills Dr Mambo and then mercifully caves Karen’s head in with a shovel. I say mercifully, but he does it about 87 times. I think one blow would have done it considering all the skin was missing from her face at this point.
Bert arrives with the murderous hillbillies in tow, and they try to form some sort of plan to escape them. The plan basically comprises of Bert being shot and instantly exploding, but that being enough of a distraction for Paul to be able to kill all three of them in one go.
Paul finally stumbles across a group of young people having a party in the woods, only to discover Deputy Winston is with them. Understandably pissed that Winston didn’t send the help he promised, he attacks the group and makes his escapes in Winston’s car. While he briefly seems safe after making it to the hospital, the police decide they need to get rid of the infection once and for all, and we see Winston driving off with Paul in the back of his car.
Cut back to the cabin, and Jeff has ventured out of his cave after presumably running out of beer. He finds the scene of carnage at the cabin, including bits his girlfriend everywhere, and celebrates that he is the only one to survive and remain infection free. However, his celebrations are short-lived as he is treated to a Night of the Living Dead (1968) style ending when he is gunned down by the police anyway. As he’s thrown onto the burning pile of bodies, we pan to the local river where two children are filling barrels to make lemonade. Further along the river bank, we find Paul’s dead body, because why not infect another water source ass hats? But it all comes back to bite the police as we see them buying lemonade from the children later as they celebrate a job well done outside the hillbilly store, which will presumably be down a few staff members now.
Cabin Fever (2016)
So, let me start out by saying that ‘Cabin Fever’ (2016) is not a complete shot-for-shot remake. Yes, a lot of the shots are the same, and yes, they did use the original script as the basis for this script (though they did cut out a chunk of pages to make it shorter), but there are a few things that happen differently in this version.
So let’s not go over the whole story again, as most of it is the same, but let’s focus on what happens slightly differently in this version.
Our film opens in the same way, with a hermit returning from the kill with a rabbit for his pet dog Pancakes. Oh, what a cool reference to the original movie. Well, it might be if Dennis didn’t still scream it later in the movie, but that’s probably beside the point. Again, the dog instantly explodes all over the hermits face.
This time around the shop workers are instantly portrayed as threatening and there are no hints of comedy. They’ve attempted to make Dennis creepier by popping a rabbit mask on him, and the shop workers actually warn the group about the woods and how hikers have been getting sick.
The cabin in the remake is beautiful in comparison to the standard horror movie cabin from the original. Aside from the flesh-eating disease, I would definitely live here. Everything plays out the same, except Bert has an assault rifle rather than an air rifle, so when he accidentally shoots the hermit, he really fucking shoots him. Karen is also snapping some selfies with Paul, just to bring the movie up to date, and mentions that even though she has no signal, her photos will upload eventually. FORESHADOWING!
Justin is not played by Eli Roth this time around, and his character seems even more pointless. He’s literally only there so they can introduce another infected dog into the situation. They could have just kept the hermit’s dog alive at the start, and we wouldn’t even need Justin at all. When the hermit shows up at the house, the car suffers some blood-related damage and a flat tire, so a bit less damage than last time, before he runs off into the woods, again on fire.
Lieutenant Winston is played by a woman in this version of the movie, for no real reason other than to have another sexy woman in the movie and to give off vague woman-on-woman flirting vibes when she interacts with Karen.
Dr Mambo makes his appearance later on when the group are cleaning the car, and now that the characters have an assault rifle they really have no excuse for not killing him. Marcy falls into one of my most hated tropes as she chases Dr Mambo off – that the only reason she knows how to shoot is that she has brothers.
The remake plays out quite similarly to the original, with the group arguing over how to get out of this mess, and Karen storming off after the direction of the conversation, and the sheer amount of infected water she has consumed makes her feel nauseous. The only redeeming factor of this version’s Paul is the fact when he chooses to make his move on Karen she is not only awake but also a direct participant in the whole situation, even guiding his hands down to have a feel of her rotting thighs. The remake should win on their recognition of the importance of consent alone, screw the rest of the movie.
When Karen is exiled to the woodshed, we see flashes of her taking photos with her phone from under the door (precious memories), that for now remains unexplained. In fact, it’s so subtle a scene that my husband forgot we’d seen it happen by the end of the movie. Perhaps not the effect the director was going for.
When Paul storms off for help in a bid to help Karen, he stumbles across a caravan in the middle of the woods, rather than a luxurious house with a naked woman rolling around on the bed. He’s still chased off the property before he has the chance to ask for help, but hey, this version of Paul is about 65% less creepy than original Paul, so that’s a win.
The group fix the car, Karen spews blood all over it, Bert decides to hit town by himself, and Jeff storms off into the woods by himself – everything is right on track. When Bert reaches town he looks like he is going to get help, but Dennis attacks him yet again (if without the slow-motion karate moves this time) and Bert brings the wrath of the hillbillies down upon them all. In an even more unbelievable scene the second time around, Marcy again decides she wants her last moments of life to be spent having sex with ‘the friend zone is totally a thing’ Paul. I take it back – taking a bath directly after this seems reasonable.
Paul makes his way into the woods again to search for help. I mean, perhaps there are some windows he has not stared through yet and creeped out the inhabitants. While poking around the local water supply, the still-alive hermit pulls a Jason Voorhees and dramatically jumps out of the water, attacking Paul. How he’s been face-down in the water for more than a day and not died already is impressive, and Paul decides to re-murder the hermit, getting rid of him once and for all. I mean, he could have wiped out that murder charge in case the skin-eating disease didn’t kill him but oh well.
Cut back to the bath, and poor Marcy is literally falling apart. While shaving her legs slices of her skin start of flake off, with Marcy finding her now detached nipple floating in the bath. They really used every chance possible to show Marcy’s boobs in this film, even when they’re not attached to her body. Crawling outside naked, with half her flesh missing, Marcy comes face-to-face with Dr Mambo, who is definitely no longer as whimsical as his name suggests. She screams at Dr Mambo to come and get her, which sadly, he does.
Now if you have any positive feelings towards the character of Paul be prepared to have them all blown away in this next scene. He returns to the house to find Marcy dead and Karen being attacked by Dr Mambo. After killing the evil dog (finally), Karen asks him to mercy kill her and end her suffering. With the gun predictably out of bullets (or somehow suddenly with the safety engaged as we find out in a moment), he decides to cave her face in with a shovel and splits her mouth open with the sharp end of the spade. Karen screams profanities at him, and rather than finish the job properly he decides to pour petrol over the giant wound that is Karen’s body and set her on fire. Yup. Then he just closes the door and leaves her to die alone. Once again the character of Karen is probably pleased she let this guy anywhere near her vagina.
Bert makes it back just in time to tell Paul the hillbillies are coming before he gets violently shot in the head. One of the hillbillies points out Paul has popped the safety on the gun, as Karen is still getting barbequed in the background, and he mows all three of them down in one bullet session.
After making his way into the woods, Paul stumbles across Winston getting her party on. This time around, Paul doesn’t attack Winston and run off into the woods. Instead, he convinces Winston to let him go and pretend she’s never seen him, which she seems to agree to when she gives him directions on how to reach the main road. However, Paul soon realises it was all a trick, and he dies in the woods when he can’t find his way out. Our last shot of him is with his body slumped against a tree, with Dennis in his rabbit mask peeping out from behind him – because why not? Did he follow his dad into the woods? Was he released into the woods to die alone as well? Who knows.
Back at the cabin, Jeff returns to the carnage but discovers he may too be infected before he’s sniped in the head by Winston. His body is thrown on the fire along with everyone else. We’re then treated to a cut to a random woman looking at photos Karen has uploaded to Facebook. While they start off innocent enough, we’re soon faced with her rotting legs in her last moments in the woodshed. I’m guessing this was Karen’s way of getting the word out about the disease before the police covered it up. Though at that point she didn’t know the police weren’t particularly helpful, so maybe she just wanted to ruin her Facebook friends’ day.
Cabin Fever (2002) vs Cabin Fever (2016) – The Final Verdict
One main difference between the two versions of Cabin Fever is that even though they used the same script, they clearly decided to deliver the lines in a completely different way. Lines of dialogue that were funny or cheesy in the original film are delivered menacingly in this movie, in a bid to make it seem darker and scarier I would assume. Jeff, in particular, is a completely different character. While in the original he’s hilariously running about with a tissue clasped to his face as if that will protect him, but in the remake, he just comes over as a jock douchebag, with none of the humour.
I feel like they tried to make the remake a lot more edgy by ramping up the blood and violence, giving the whole thing a more serious feel, adding ominous music wherever possible, and making it be dark and rainy a lot more often to drive the point home. They try to elicit more emotion, particularly in the scene when Karen is begging Paul to kill her, but it doesn’t hit the mark. Especially when he decides to shovel her mouth in half.
The original Cabin Fever’ was marketed as a bit of a black comedy, but I don’t get that feel from the remake at all. Even things like completely changing the demeanour of the hillbillies from the store were probably done to try and make the movie scarier, but it didn’t work. Also changing moments such as Jeff managing to avoid being infected only to be shot about 100 times really ruined the charm of the original. Yes, he still died, but it was one bullet, over very quickly, and it looked like he was infected anyway. It completely ruined the humour of the original scene.
The only change I liked was the different ways Winston deals with Paul at the end of the movie. I enjoyed the fact that we thought Winston was helping Paul in the remake only to see him die in the woods cursing her name. It seemed as if she thought it was a kinder way for him to die, and I liked it much better than the whole police-conspiracy-type plot that was going on at the end of the original 2002 movie.
Remakes like this are the sort that give remakes a bad name. Shot-for-shot remakes that add nothing to the way the story is told. The effects were a little more impressive, but that’s only because they inserted more blood and gore into the story and therefore needed more effects. It’s not like the effects in the first movie were bad, with scenes like Karen’s teeth shining through her skull still looking pretty impressive. Oh, wait, that might be because this movie is only 16 years old! Why are we remaking movies that are only 16 years old? I can understand sequels or reboots, but really what did this add to the world except probably a little more money into Eli Roth’s bank account?
Cabin Fever (2016) is not the worst remake I have ever seen by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s just incredibly pointless. I don’t know why anyone decided this was a good idea. It’s probably more enjoyable if you haven’t seen the original, so I would recommend giving it a watch, but if you had to pick between the two, Cabin Fever (2002) would be my choice every time.