For horror fans, very few films delivered the kind of gory, over the top action that Cabin Fever had. Twelve years later, director Kaare Andrews is bringing the gruesome mayhem back, unleashing the flesh-eating virus of the series in the prequel film, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. An established comic book artist and writer, Andrews has been moving into the world of film, creating a number of short films, as well as his first feature, Altitude, in 2010. Toronto Film Scene had a chance to speak with him about his latest film, his love for practical effects, and how his two careers aren’t really all that different.
When it comes to the Cabin Fever series, fans instantly think about one thing, and that’s the incredibly bloody results that the virus of the film unleashes on the victims. Those fans are in for a treat, as Cabin Fever: Patient Zero may offer some of the most disgusting, over the top scenes of the entire series. Of course, Kaare Andrews knew this going in, and explains how you approach a film like this.
“I think there’s only one way to do a Cabin Fever movie, and that’s unapologetically, without restraint. Even before I started filming, I got an email from Eli Roth. He basically said, have fun, and don’t worry. It needs to be as crazy as it can be, don’t worry about going over the top. So, I tried to embrace that.”
It’s easy to see those results onscreen, as the film ends on what may be the bloodiest note of the series. Andrews refers to the moment as “the catfight,” and it’s an all out, blood splashing, skin tearing, bone breaking fight between two of the characters. “It’s definitely something that I latched onto, and was like, this is a real opportunity to try to do something that I have never seen done before, and how do you do that kind of crazy, over the top scene. That’s the scene people will talk about, so I better not be bashful about it, I better not try to second guess myself.” Andrews continued talking about the length of time that it took to even create that moment. “The actors involved in that scene had to go through nine or 10 hours of makeup before we even started. We shot the scene all night, and had to get it done in one night. That was the situation. We battled that scene in every scenario, it was kind of fun to do, but it was exhausting.”
That was only a tiny part of the problems with the shoot. Andrews calls it a “mini version of Heart of Darkness” with weather, inexperience, and sickness working against them. “We didn’t have money to build sets, so everything was a found location, even the underground scientific research facility was actually a real, underground cave that had been turned into a nightclub in the 80s. It was full of toxic mold, tarantulas, live wires, and electricity. It was the most dangerous place in the world, so we tried to clean it up to make it safe for people.” Even when things had been made safe for the actors, the production would have to endure a new, and rather odd, problem. Since the underground cave had previously been a nightclub, and it was now cleaned up, people started coming back. Without the money to rent the caves for a block of time, production had to rent them by the hour, which meant that others could use it after that time. “At least 4 times, during shooting, girls would come in with beer, turn on the club music, and start having a functioning club while we were trying to shoot our creepy horror movie.”
Problems aside, Andrews says it was one of the most fun shoots he’s ever done, and part of that is a result of the practical effects in the film. The series is known for gore, and Andrews has always been a fan of doing everything practically. A limited budget actually pushed things in this direction, which couldn’t have worked out better for the director. “Our entire visual effects budget was ten thousand dollars, which is nothing. For the gore, there were a couple of moments that had some extra blood added, and there’s one skin ripping scene that needed a little massage, but even that was shot practically to a large extent. Most of the effects were all practical, all the time, and it was a lot of fun to see what you could capture in camera.”
Andrews didn’t begin in the world of film though. He’s had a very successful career as a comic book artist, and writer, and has always felt that the two things are just a different part of the same picture. “For myself, it’s one big process. I storyboard all my shots, and when I’m really on my game, on set, I feel like I’m painting with people.” This brings up the question of creating an entire world, both in film, and comics, that is his own vision. “I would love to own a comic, own a film, I would love to own that whole process of multimedia expression of a single world.” The time may be coming close for that idea, as Andrews begins writing and directing his next movie, allowing him greater freedom in the world of film. Comic fans will see his return a little sooner, as he begins working on an Iron Fist book, which he’ll be creating. For now, we’ll all be able to enjoy his latest film, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, as it screens as part of Cineplex Sinister Cinema on Thursday, May 29, 2014. You can find more information at their website.