Something deadlier than swine flu is about to infect our nation's school systems.
The virus from Eli Roth's Cabin Fever is spreading. And it's spreading fast in the Ti West-directed Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. Remember those contaminated bottles of water from Cabin Fever? The shipment's reached its final destination: a high school where the students will experience a prom night to remember - assuming they survive the night without succumbing to the flesh-eating virus or being shot by the government forces trying to contain the outbreak. Stuck in the middle of the mayhem are John (Noah Segan), his mouthy pal Alex (Rusty Kelley), and his childhood crush, Cassie (Alexi Wasser).
Unlike Cabin Fever, a splatterfest admired/maligned for its dark humorous streak, Spring Fever plays this outbreak strictly for laughs. Imagine John Waters directing a homage to 1980s high school comedies and letting loose a deadly virus that turns the kids to mush. It even opens and closes with amusing plot - and threequel-establishing - animated sequences.
"This one takes Evil Dead 2-kind of humor to the next level," Kelley promises following Spring Fever's U.S. premiere at a Fantastic Fest '09 prescreening to benefit the Austin Film School.
Cabin Fever's comedic nature was the source of much discussion on the set as to how it should inform Spring Fever, according to Segan.
"Some people were like, 'I was so scared,'" Segan says. "Some people, even at the script stage, said this was a straight comedy. It was schizophrenic tonally. Even Eli wasn't sure completely. We were walking a fine line [on Spring Fever]: where to play the comedy, where to play it over the top, when to play it real."
Roth hadn't seen Spring Fever at the time of the Austin screening, but producer Lauren Moews predicts he'll like what sees if he catches the October 24 Screamfest LA screening prior to its February direct-to-DVD debut.
"He's very respectful of other people and their contribution - I think he will find it very amusing, that he'll love the fact that it's an '80s homage, I know he loves that the homage song is [Patrick Hernandez's disco classic "Born to be Alive"], and I know he loves the animation idea."
Moews worked hard to ensure the sequel wasn't a carbon copy of its predecessor. Hence the decision to roll with screenwriter Joshua Malkin's idea to open up things, by relocating the action from an isolated cabin in the woods to a high school on prom night. This also allows Giuseppe Andrews' goofy Deputy Winston make a significant contribution to gross-out proceedings.
Still, making a sequel without Roth presented its challenges.
"It's very hard to maintain the same sensibility while doing something completely different," Moews says. "The setting, the '80s homage, it's a very different film than the first one. I don't believe anyone wants to see a film that's back in the woods and is a '70s homage."
Roth may have fought off a second bout of Cabin Fever, but Rider Strong didn't. He returns as the infected Paul - though he doesn't stick around for long.
"I knew," Strong says of Paul's fate. "It was something we had talked about pretty early on after the first film that if we do a sequel. Even though [Roth] wasn't as involved in the second film, we carried through with those ideas. So I knew the second Lauren called me that she was really steering the ship on this one and she said, 'We're going to bring you back,' and told me the whole scene, and I was like, 'Awesome, I'm so in.'"
Then came four hours in makeup.
"I looked at the mirror and I was like, 'It could be anybody,'" he recalls.
If Strong didn't recognize himself, audiences wouldn't either. That led to a discussion on how to shot Strong.
"I was told, 'Make sure you look at the camera with your good side. Otherwise we don't know who you are,'" Strong reveals.
The worst, though, was to come.
"We had this swamp and they were going to throw me in there," Strong reveals. "It's January in North Carolina. That's what I'm worried about, how cold it's going to be. And there's this guy on the other side of the swamp. He's not part of the crew. He's just roaming around. Finally, I asked Lauren, 'What's that guy?' 'It's the alligator wrangler.' They had to move an alligator before I went into the water. She's like, 'It's small. It's just a baby.'"
Wasser didn't have to contend with hungry reptiles - just the corn syrup that she claims ruined her hair. The bloodiest moment? When Cassie's required to take a buzz-saw to one of John's hands.
"I really cut it off. I did," Wasser jokes before getting serious. "We had a stunt person. I had to spray my face with blood and I had to wear a wig because my hair was getting so full of blood. At some point in the movie I'm wearing a wig - you'll have to discover when. It's a real blade. We had a stunt person do a close-up of the hand as it goes closer to the blade because it was a liability if they let me do it."
Segan still grimaces in pain when he thinks back to one of his toughest scenes.
"At the end, when we doing the thing with all the guys coming on top of me, my arms swelled up to that big for three days afterward," Segan says, "because I had some 200-pound dude with his knee on my elbow trying to wrangle me."
Spring Fever's grossest moment - one that would make Waters green with envy - involves Kelley and an oozing male appendage.
"It was prosthetic penis fitted over me," Kelley says. "I had to get my torso cast. That was just fun, just having this fake thing and putting weird stuff and blood all over it. They actually gave it to me to keep. I have it in my house locked away. It's going to Planet Hollywood later."
For Thomas Blake Jr., the prom king with a secret crush on the school's heaviest lass (Amanda Jelks), Spring Fever afforded him to make a film in his North Carolina hometown of Willington. He shot his scenes at the rival New Hanover High School - like Michael Jordan, he attended Emsley A. Laney High School - and at a YMCA swimming pool he frequent as a kid.
"It was nostalgic for me to be there because I was like trying to make out with girls at that pool earlier in my life," Blake says.
Blake and Jelks' pool hi-jinks required both to strip down to their birthday suits.
"It's work. I had actually done Hair! the musical when I was 18 or 20 in Wilmington, so I had already been naked onstage," Blake says. "So, whatever, I'll get in front of these people and do it. We sat down, me and Amanda and we were like, 'It's going to be fun, right?' Once we got into the pool, they covered us up."
Shot in 2007, Spring Fever's long delay can be traced to the sinking economy causing money woes during post-production and West walking away when his cut was re-edited to make it funnier.
"We have financiers who are flushed with cash who are all of a sudden in a state of disaster," Moews say. "Once you gear up and start again, Ti's availability became very limited. Then Lionsgate's determining the best date to release the film was another issue. Sometimes it's very common when you deliver a film they might not release it because of competition for a particular date isn't right. Halloween was one date, now it's in February because they feel like spring is better."
"So all these things wrapped into one and they made me want to pull my hair out."
Made for theatrical release, Spring Fever instead will go direct to DVD. Moews claims it's too expensive to release Spring Fever in this economic climate.
"Every film is planned for theatrical release if it can be, but I think the market is very different than it was when we released Cabin Fever," Moews explains. "The Burrowers, Midnight Meat Train - all these films are not theatrically released and it's no testament as to whether or not they deserved to be shown in theaters. It's more of a financial thing at this point."
"It takes a lot more P&A money, and my responsibility is to protect the investor. Who wants to sit behind a multi-million dollar ad campaign? They'll never recoup their money in that market unless you have a huge star."
Segan thinks the best way to boost's Spring Fever profile when its DVD is to go the Deadgirl route.
"We did a midnight road show of Deadgirl for like two weeks in all the major markets," Segan says. "Talk about a communal experience. We have people coming out for a midnight movie in their town, a college town or a big city, and being able to yell at the screen."
Not that a DVD release will thwart plans for Cabin Fever 3, which Moews calls "a no-brainer," much to Wasser's delight.
"Cabin Fever 3 is going to me, Giuseppe Andrew and Mark Borchardt [as Winston's cousin] in New Orleans, and I think I might have a sex scene with Giuseppe," Wasser reveals. "Heâ€™s so cute. I want to make out with Giuseppe. As long as he keeps his mouth shut, we're fine. Or a tooth doesn't fall out of his mouth."
A sex scene with Winston - what does this mean for Cassie's true love?
"All I know, I've got a lot of guys I have to fight off," Segan says. "I've got this one, I've got that one, that whole stump problem that I've got to be working on. But anything's possible."
Moews isn't going to get ahead of herself. She must first decide what approach to take with Cabin Fever 3. That heavily depends on the director.
"We really have to find somebody with a style that interests me and are willing to do something - like Ti," Moews says. "He hadn't had the opportunity to do something funny and gory. I don't know tonally what it would be. I don't think we should do a comedy - maybe it would be dark. It depends on the director. The only thing to me that the franchise really is, it's not the director at all. The franchise is gore and the setting of how people treat each other and they might be the reason why they should die. It's why we did the first one. And the fever itself. It's an avenue for horror directors to come in and show what they would do with a virus and a bunch of people not behaving properly."
Source: Robert Sims