Kaare Andrews' Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is the first of two prequels in the long-running Cabin Fever franchise that started back in 2002. The second prequel, Cabin Fever: Outbreak, is tentatively scheduled to be released in 2014, but for now, we have Patient Zero, a mildly-amusing, ninety-minute affair detailing the events that took place before the first Cabin Fever, which centered on a group of five college kids who went out to a remote cabin in the woods only to encounter a flesh-eating virus.
Right off the bat, if you're expecting a film that cleverly places itself before the events of the first picture, you may be disappointed to learn that Patient Zero distances itself far away from that stray cabin in the woods. Rather, the film focuses on a Caribbean cruise and follows a group of four friends as they enjoy a bachelor party on a beach in a predominately-Spanish neighborhood. Writer Jake Wade Wall interjects this story with the focus of a research lab, where a lab-rat (Sean Astin) is kept sheltered in order to be the recipient of numerous abusive and potentially lethal tests.
The friends on the bachelor party do just about what you'd expect until the one female friend explores the deep sea and then resurfaces with a fierce, ugly rash on her arms. Her boyfriend believes it may be an allergic reaction to saltwater, but sees it only getting worse. He decides to wisely perform oral sex on his girlfriend to relax her and then finds his bottom jaw soaked with blood; his girlfriend is now the bearer of a vicious flesh-eating virus that will soon eat her - and anyone who touches her - alive.
Patient Zero's budget is evidently low, but it's at least a relief to note that the blood and effects are not distractingly fake like in Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. Moreover, some scenes spark genuine fright and discomfort, like the aforementioned sequence between a man and his infected girlfriend, along with the scene when the girlfriend's virus begins to worsen despite her boyfriend's remedies. If nothing else, commend Patient Zero for playing to the beat of the franchise's drums and applaud them for at least following the formula of its two predecessors.
However, the issue here is, yet again, there's limited interest in the characters (and by "limited" I mean non-existent) and the third act, which suffers from probably the worst thing a horror film can suffer from - darkness. As it goes on, and the night becomes young, Patient Zero's videography becomes increasingly dark and murky, with the frustrating inability to clearly see what we're supposed to see. "The dark-factor" in horror films is something that can instantaneously throw it off track due to the fact that not being able to see what's going on in the film is immediately alienating to the viewer. Returning to my point about the characters, to begin with, the characters don't have any discernible personality and, even worse, no real stereotypes to work off either; they are some of the most faceless people in a horror film I have yet to see. So when the going gets tough for them, it's difficult to grant them the sympathy they should deserve.
Patient Zero is all over the place as a horror film, but, to be frank, so is the franchise is belongs to. Eli Roth's original Cabin Fever was a spectacular horror film given its cinematography and woodsy location, but, like its prequel, possessed lackluster characters that seemed to only be stereotypes personified. The second film, directed by Ti West, was kind of a mess as well, with a totally different focus, but still maintained its gross, shock-value ridden personality the franchise had created. This particular film is well-made given its obvious budgetary shortcomings, but between the darkness, the empty characters, and the franchise's first installment that is absent Giuseppe Andrews, one of the most charismatic and interesting avant-garde actors working today, it still makes its franchise 0-3 in the regard of being awarded my personal recommendation.
Review by Steve Pulaski from United States from the Internet Movie Database.