If Ti West has his way, Alan Smithee would receive all the credit - or discredit - for Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.
West has disowned the long-delayed sequel to Eli Roth's 2002 darkly comic virus gorefest that he shot in 2007 before House of the Devil, which opens theatrically October 30. He wanted to replace his name with the old Directors Guild of America pseudonym to show his dissatisfaction with the version of Spring Fever that Lionsgate plans to debut on DVD in February.
"I very much wanted the Alan Smithee credit - that would have been a silver lining to me," West told STYD exclusively following a House of the Devil screening at Fantastic Fest '09. "I would have been more than happy to have promoted the film if I had had Alan Smithee on it. They said no; I'm not DGA, so I couldn't do it. And the DGA doesn't do Alan Smithee anymore, anyway, so it was a bummer situation with that. I really do not feel like it's my film. That was a film that was really made by a bunch of other people on that production. And it's unfortunate."
West went in eyes open knowing he was hired to make an audience-friendly sequel to the oft-maligned horror film that put Roth on the map, not a slow-boiling, serious-minded chiller in the vein of his House of the Devil and The Roost. In Spring Fever, the action shifts from an isolated cabin in the woods to a high school, where the students are infected with the flesh-eating virus on the eve of their prom. The film plays like a bloody homage to 1980s high school sex farces. West, though, walked away from Spring Fever when he decided not to participate in the reediting of his cut.
"We cut the movie together," West explains. "Everyone was like, 'This is going to be great.' Then there was this, 'Oh, it should be different,' â€¦ like all the greatness of the past six months had never happened. It was like, 'This is the direction we're going with, come with us.' And I was like, 'I don't want do that.' And they were like, 'This is what we're doing.' And I opted to say, 'Then you should do it by yourself.' I knew there was no collaboration at point. It was going to be what it was going to be, and I wasnâ€™t onboard with that. I didn't have the power to do anything physically about itâ€¦. I could have just said 'Cool' and gone along with it, but that's not really my personality. And I think it was a bit of a surprise to them that I said, 'I'm just going to step aside.'"
"I think it made it difficult for them to finish because there wasn't a director involved. It's really unfortunate. This is not the way they wanted it to go, either. It was a very unfortunate, bizarre experience, very Terry Gilliam-esque. But I do think it resulted in a movie that is fully an Alan Smithee movie, if I've ever seen one. This is the reason they created [the pseudonym] it's no person's particular fault, but I will be held responsible like it's my fault when it's not, and that's what Alan Smithee's forâ€¦. They didn't try to f**k me over; I didn't try to make some crazy art thing. It didn't work out for a bunch of reasons â€¦ and I wish they had given me the ability to [finish the film]."
Producer Lauren Moews wishes West had stuck with Spring Fever in order to create "an even better product," but that the final film remains as faithful to the director's vision as possible.
"I know all the different cuts," Moews told STYD following a Fantastic Fest â€™09 prescreening to benefit the Austin Film School. "Except for the tag ending, this film is probably 90 percent [West's] cut. It's got the wipes in there, it's got the animation in there that he wanted, it's got the '80s references, the Ramones for the songs. I worked very hard to maintain the vision he saw and maintained what he wanted when he wasn't around."
Moews' reedited Spring Fever to punch up its outrageous John Watersesque moments involving severed limbs, oozing penises and odd sexual couplings. West's "not a comedy director," she says, so she enlisted the help of Janice Hampton, the editor of such Waters comedies as Hairspray and Serial Mom.
"I believe it's a very rare occasion that a director should work without editor, and I believe in collaboration for every creative director," Moews says. "They need it; they need to be challenged. And [West] really wanted this film to be somewhat of a John Waters homage. So what better person to edit the film than John Waters' editor to continue that sense of humor? And then [West's] availability drops out, and he's not there - I think it's very much in the vein of his cut. The music choices, he's not available for, he's not around to collaborate with the composer. I can't really speak for him, but it looks Ti West making a sequel film to Cabin Fever. I think itâ€™s really more about the fact that Ti West makes Ti West films, and maybe he's not comfortable making a franchise [film] stamped by another director."
West concedes that Spring Fever contains "a lot of the footage" he shot - the major exception being the ending with an infected stripper that Moews reveals she previously shot down for Roth's predecessor - but he doesn't like the way the sequel plays.
"There's a big difference in how you cut a joke together or how you cut a scare together or how you cut a gross moment or what kind of sound and music you do," West says. "Ninety percent of the decisions they made are the opposite of what I would have done. Yeah, people still die the same way. Yeah, a lot of the dialogue's still in there. But the way it's presented was radically different."
"The way a joke is put together, I don't think it's funny. And I think the way I did it was funny. I wasn't involved in the music. I wasn't involved in the sound. I wasn't there for anything. So they took some footage I shot and they just assumed that this would be what I would do. And it's not."
Despite West's disavowing of Spring Fever, Moews stands by her decision to hire the director.
"I'm very happy with the product that came out of that push-pull. Ti can speak for himself, but he wants hearts wipes - all his original stuff's in there," Moews says. "For me, this is his movie.
"What did I see in him? Someone who can bring something different to the table that knows the genre, who have made films that have a lot of good things about them, and can take something and make something different out of it and yet keep it within the confines of the franchise. That was my hope, and I think we're made a success out of it."
Rider Strong, who reprises his role as the infected Paul in Spring Fever, says he's "baffled" by West's rejection of a film he describes as "pretty f**king funny and awesome." Strong's fellow Spring Fever's cast members feel the same.
"All the stuff I liked about the script, what made me want to me in the movie, is there," says Rusty Kelly. "So who knows?"
Adds Alexi Wasser: "All I know [West's] name's still on it, and I'm happy with the movie."
Noah Segan, the designated hero in Spring Fever, enjoyed bringing West's vision to the screen.
"If the script isn't any good, the movie's not going to be any good," the Deadgirl stars says. "And if the director isn't any good, the movie's not going to be any good. From my experience, the script was fantastic, the script was the movie, the director was the movie, he was my boss, he was a pleasure to work with, he got it, and I got it, and we communicated really well. There a lot of people who worked on this movie who really, really loved it, and really wanted it to be all it could be, and I think that the director is one of them. It's a shame he isn't happyâ€¦. I wish everybody could be happy, I wish everybody could see the points and acknowledge and come to a conclusion, because movie-makingâ€¦is not a solitarily experience."
Ironically, West shares Strong's assessment that Spring Fever was "fun" to make.
"It was the greatest film experience I've ever had," West says. "I got to rewrite the script from scratch - I was so happy with the script. I got all the cast I wanted. I was so happy with that. I got all the crew I wanted. It was an amazing experience. Shooting was amazing. It didn't turn bad until halfway through post-production."
Source: Robert Sims