Paul (Rider Strong) awakens in a pain-induced daze, emerging from a river to stumble through the woods towards help. The reason he needs assistance is that he is suffering from the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis, and it has killed off his friends, but as he wanders through the trees, leaving pieces of himself behind on the twigs he brushes against, he sees a road up ahead and makes for it. Unfortunately for him, there is a school bus travelling along there and when it hits him, he bursts into a mess of decomposing flesh. The driver halts the vehicle and gets out, and when patrolman Winston (Giuseppe Andrews) arrives he reassures him it was only a moose...
But do moose wear trainers? When Winston, returning from the first Cabin Fever, sees a human foot caught in a nearby tree, he puts two and two together and realises what the opening animated credits tell us, and that is there's something in the water. Necrotizing fasciitis hit British headlines in the nineteen-nineties as a major threat to the population, but as with many briefly fashionable media scares, it petered out and was forgotten by the public. However, the disease made for an original idea for a horror movie, and that's what director Eli Roth offered us for his debut, a film that while not universally liked, did well enough to make a sequel a solid proposition.
Alas, Cabin Fever 2 fell victim to a number of drawbacks, the most obvious one being that Lionsgate didn't want to release it. It eventually opened on the big screen in a few festivals, then went straight to DVD a few months later, complete with the bad publicity that came from the director Ti West disowning it, claiming it had been taken out of his hands and edited beyond recognition of his original vision. West had a bad experience with this, but bounced back with cult acclaim in House of the Devil, which left Cabin Fever 2 somewhat lost in the big bad world of DVD sequels that had a bad reputation. It's true that the ending it had now was not what West intended, and boy does it look it, but there was no reason to write off what came before.
In fact, as with House of the Devil, this film was paying tribute to the eighties, taking its central characters as high school students going to their prom only to be struck down by the bug, which this time does not so much eat away at their bodies but make them vomit blood and gore instead, presumably because that was cheaper to shoot. As a movie reminscent of the golden age of comedy bloodshed most of this isn't half bad, although in places it goes further in its shock moments than much of what would clog up the video shelves way back then would ever do. Yet while you might expect a wanton glee about this, the film takes it all curiously seriously, with the relationship scenes especially dragging.
Those main relationships are between John (Noah Segan) and Cassie (Alexi Wasser), the girl he loves and might have had better luck with if it were not for her jerk of a boyfriend gloating and warning him away from her with threats of violence to back him up. John has an ally in Alex (Rusty Kelley), who fatefully persuades him to go to the prom where the disease has gotten into the bottled water practically everyone drinks, setting the stage for carnage. There are homages to other horrors here, with the opening apparently deliberately echoing The Incredible Melting Man, the students grooving to the disco theme from the original Prom Night, and the authorities amassing outside dressed in suits and gas masks as in The Crazies, but strangely not so much recognition of the first Cabin Fever. The tacked on ending was regrettable and superfluous, but overall it was unfair to dismiss this outright, there's an intriguing tone, not quite as outrageous as it seems to think it is, but pretty nasty all the same. Music by Ryan Shore.