By Kristen Romanelli
In 2002, Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever became a cult favorite of horror fans. 12 years later, the origins of the virus that ravaged the college students in the first film are explored in Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, tracing the strain back to an immune carrier: Porter (Sean Astin). An ill-fated bachelor party finds itself trapped on a Caribbean island as the disease runs rampant. Unfortunately for the groom-to-be and his friends, the idyllic location is also home to a secret laboratory where scientists have been experimenting on an angry, embittered Porter. Just as in the first film, the virus is contracted through water and blood—and there’s a good deal of slapstick woven throughout the mayhem.
Director Kaare Andrews, who is known for his work illustrating Marvel comics, relied on Kevin Riepl—a genre aficionado—to create an eerie, unsettling score where the natural and unnatural clash under the tropical sun. Andrews and Riepl had collaborated in the past on The ABCs of Death for the “V is for Vagitus” segment. “I contacted him years ago when he was in production with his first feature, Altitude,” says Riepl. Although Andrews had already begun production with another composer, Riepl, a fan of Andrews’ comic book art, sent him samples of music and said that he’d love to work with Andrews in the future. “I knew he was doing a segment for [The ABCs of Death]and I contacted him again. That’s how it started and we worked well together. When I heard he was doing Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, I wanted to have a shot at it, too.”
As Patient Zero was conceived as a prequel to the Cabin Fever movies, Riepl approached the score with a clean slate. No motifs were to be borrowed from the first two films. The music is a blend of atmospheric electronics and rhythmic, orchestral work with sinewy strings that pluck, pop and stretch across unsettling measures. “I wanted the strings to have an intimate sound. They’re very dry, very gritty and I didn’t want them to have too much of a musical tone. I wanted to create the tension throughout, so there’s a lot of scraping, a lot of dynamic bowing, and on top of that are the dissonant plucking notes,” he says, describing the steely pizzicato of the violin and banjolele. The two aspects of the score—synthetic and organic—also illustrated the paradox of the film’s setting: The natural beach and forest versus the corruption of virus. The state of “zombification” is, itself, unnatural. “I didn’t want it to strictly be the virus’ melody or sound, but it created the tension between the organics and the electronics in the score to support the foreign aspect of the virus,” Ripel explains. “Combining the electronic stuff with orchestral is something I try to do in a lot of scores, if the storyline calls for it. This one, as far as the story goes, didn’t call for electronic elements but it helped with the tension and the momentum of the score.”