It only became clear to me why Cabin Fever got remade so soon after the original (about 13 years by my count) during the end credits, when a pitch-perfect gag (and these movies knows about gagging) about social media appears, but by that point it's clearly too little too late. Okay considering the gore on display, it's too much too soon? Whatever. My point is the 2016 version buzz-saws off most of the things that made Eli Roth's original a... well if not necessarily a great film an interesting one, one worth dissecting.
In tandem with Hostel a couple of years later Eli Roth cornered the mid-2000s market on purposefully godawful young Americans stumbling dick first into cultures they don't understand, they don't want to understand, and fucking up everything in the process due to their me-me-me-ness. His folks are awful, just awful people, but it's notsomuch that you want to see them suffer - it's more like you're in awe of how much suffering they seem to bring into the world by just being their awful selves.
This new version (which Roth produced but didn't direct) makes the kids not quite as obnoxious... but they're never really likable either. They're not defined in any purposeful way, at least not until they start playing out the scenes from the original in essentially lock-step, just with less oomph to the proceedings.
The final act does manage to somehow be nastier than the original, which faced me with a conundrum - what do you get from watching bland kind of nice kids dying horrifically that you don't get from watching jerk-wads die slightly less horrifically? If you wanted to make me feel lousy I get that - it is a horror movie! And it is showing horrific things! I should probably feel bad watching it happen.
But the movie doesn't earn the power of its violence. It not only steals mojo from the looser goofier blueprint of the original, it leans heavy on other shout-outs - there's an "homage" to The Shining that seems less tip-of-the-hat than it does this-is-our-hat-now and which... no, you can't just swipe something like that to make your movie feel atmospheric, dude.
It's entirely possible that I've seen Roth's original too many times (full stop?) to appreciate this movie, which is essentially a re-shoot of Roth's original script a la Gus Van Sant's Psycho - all of the surprise is gone for me. Maybe this movie just wasn't made for me, full stop. There are youngins out there, Bernie-loving Snapchatters, that haven't seen the 2002 film, and this is for them. That's fine. This review's for me. We all have our things.