Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
May 1st, 2004

Cabin Fever II Spring Fever

Cabin Fever 2 Spring Fever
Directed by Ti West
Written by Randy Pearlstein, Ti West, Joshua Malkin
Starring Rider Strong, Noah Segan, Alexi Wasser, Rusty Kelley
Produced by Lauren Vilchik, Patrick Durham
86 mins

It was something of a surprise to see that the sequel to Cabin Fever had gone direct to video. After all, it was something of a cult hit, so you'd think that Lions Gate would've wanted to capitalize on the first movie and put this in theaters, but it'll actually make some sense when you see the whole thing all at once. It starts out like a good movie but it won't stay good for long.

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever rejoins Cabin Fever pretty much where it left off, with the uncomfortable realization that the water that our infectees had collapsed into was being siphoned off by a bottled water company for distribution. And, in an even more twisted revelation, a batch of same has found its way to the local high school, and just in time for the prom, too. Meanwhile, not only is the water tainted, but everything the water comes in contact with. By the time the dancing starts, there are like four vectors of the water-plague slamming into the prom like a drunken mosh pit. Then the government shows up, and it only gets worse from there.

The great thing about Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever is that it's going to waver so wildly from creepy horror romp to hilarious teen sex comedy in the space of just a few scenes at literally any time. It's downright amazing--it's like it can't quite figure out what it wants to be, so it's going to try and be everything. It's got just a little bit of that seventies vibe (it feels a lot like Piranha did, in all honesty) that Ti West seems to favor. He's like a low-rent horror Tarantino.

But there's a problem with this approach--it's very much fluid. In fact, a bit too fluid, at times--by the last twenty minutes or so the whole thing just kind of falls apart, like they were running out of time but they had more to say, so they just started tossing plot elements into the mix, one after another, until they ran out the clock.

The first hour of Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever was pretty sweet. Sadly, it just couldn't live up to the promises they made in the front. In that sense, it's a lot like high school, where you and your sweetheart promise you'll be together forever until some cheerleader offers you a hummer. Or someone offers her one. Same concept, same result.

The ending is, of course, the worst part about the whole thing because it's so wildly disjointed that most of what happened is left unresolved. It's extraordinarily dissatisfying.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, a "gore reel" featuring the supermassive amount of blood spewed throughout the movie, a behind the scenes featurette and trailers for Blood Creek, Saw VI, Train, Cabin Fever, and an ad for Fearnet.

All in all, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever is a great try that just couldn't capitalize on the successes of the original.

Sam's Lake

Sam's Lake
Directed by Andrew C. Erin
Written by Andrew C. Erin
Starring Fay Masterson, Sandrine Holt, William Gregory Lee, Stephen Bishop
Produced by Eric Thompson, Cassie Yoo, Julian Zolkin, Amy Green

It's not every day I find a decent bit of direct to video horror to bring up, but this one really got me. Why? Because it looked like it was going to be lousy in the early going, but it managed to pull a really spectacular one-eighty (the folks out at TV Tropes might well call it a Heel Face Turn) that put a bit of punch back into things. Today we're talking about Sam's Lake, it's a fairly nasty bit of real estate.

Sam's Lake follows Sam, who takes a group of her friends out to the lake that bears her name, where her family has kept a cottage for years. They have a terrific time, and when the time comes to tell scary stories (as it usually does in events like this), Sam tells a doozy about a family who used to live nearby. Their son went insane and went on a killing spree. When the gang goes off to investigate the house in question, they find out that the murderous horror has never really stopped. And who will it claim next? You'll be surprised.

The entire movie, as I said, hinges on this great heel face turn about midway through. In fact, for about the first half hour or so, pretty much nothing goes on. You're left screaming at your monitor, DO SOMETHING ALREADY, and nothing happens. You could easily throw your hands up and forget the whole thing, but you'd miss an incredible plot twist that changes the tempo of the whole movie from snoozefest into horror-action frenzy.

Sure, it's a bit predictable, and the horror action part of things has been done several dozen times before, but still, you really had to hand it to that plot twist for saving a movie from being a complete disaster and elevating it to at least mediocre.

The ending actually manages to bust a few expectations of its own, though not necessarily in a good way. Some nice, if somewhat tame, surprises await here.

The special features include Spanish subtitles, a stills gallery, and trailers for The Haunting in Connecticut, Dead Noon, Dead of Winter, Ghost Town, and Sam's Lake.

All in all, Sam's Lake is a movie that starts out badly, but manages to ramp up its action by virtue of a terrific plot twist into a fully acceptable horror movie.