The DVD Shelf
Disease and flesh-eating parasites are genuinely terrifyingy things which is what this film preys on. Body horror operates at the visceral level taking advantage of our ability to empathize with the pain and suffering of the characters by giving us an echo of the pain in our own bodies. Zombie films seem to fill much of the horror genre’s discussion of these topics while the more serious films tend to be more action thrillers. Eli Roth changed that in the first film by blending the contagion storyline with a slasher movie set-up of a gang of annoying college students in the woods for a party. Then the sequel took it back to high school but was not as successful.
Patient Zero is the name used by epidemiologists for the first person in a population infected with a pathogen or so the movies have told us. Patient Zero for this flesh eating disease is Porter (Sean Astin) and he’s held captive in a “secure” medical facility on a remote island. He is not a heap of diseased flesh begging to die which means he is immune and potentially can help researchers find a cure. The facility is being run by Dr Edwards (Currie Graham) with a fairly large staff and two assistants Bridgette (Lydia Hearst) and Camila (Solly Duran). Porter is sick of being abused and still traumatised by what he has been through and it is clear Edwards is never going to let him go.
There is a second plot that involves a small stag party taking a boat to remote island for dope, booze and stargazing or whatever. Only in horror films do characters go away from civilization for a stag party. Let’s get the soap opera details of this plot out of the way. Marcus (Mitch Ryan) is getting married to Katia (Claudette Lali), a wealthy young woman. His best friend and business partner Dobbs (Ryan Donowho) is there, as is his embarrassing younger brother Josh (Brando Eaton) who has brought his girlfriend Penny(). Marcus had short passionate relationship with Penny before she was with Josh and of course this is going to come up later.
The film cuts between the two plots before revealing how they are connected. The plot of the stag party follows the plot of the first film with one of the friends getting infected and slowly getting sicker. This is where the film does a good job of doing gross-out body horror with impressive make-up and special effects but the soapy drama around it seems just too trivial. The mad science plot seemed more promising until Edwards goes full Dr Mengele crazy. I had no idea that the fourth Cabin Fever film is due to be released later this year and I wonder how much this film is just setting up that film.
Patient Zero has some powerful scenes but a weak storyline with a bit too much wandering through dark tunnels. I only recently found it was a prequel but there is nothing that necessarily suggests this in the film. Sean Astin really does a good job playing Porter but he’s really on his own in a story that doesn’t give us anything new. It is an improvement on the other sequel but doesn’t really match the original film and It takes a bit longer for the flesh to really start falling off on this one. It does have some interesting twists and some really outrageous scenes so may of interest to fans of the first film.