Starring Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett, Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Expectations: Low. I don’t remember liking this.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
Like a lot of movies I saw in the late ’90s, I’m finding that revisiting them now is a much better experience than watching them then. Back then, my expectations for Cube were through the roof; it seemed like it was everything I could want rolled into one movie. Things like cool science fiction sets, crazy traps and realistic gore FX. But I simply wasn’t ready to appreciate this movie for what it was, as I was ear-deep in my film snob phase and only the best in cinema would suffice.
Nowadays my expectations for movies have changed quite a bit, and I’m more than happy to just roll with the punches as long as the movie is of quality enough to entertain. Cube does entertain, and it does so pretty well, but it’s just shy of being everything that it could be thanks to some questionable, over-the-top acting and some equally questionable writing. But that’s OK, this is a début feature so things like that are bound to come up. And besides, look at that fucking cube set! It’s awesome!
Before I get to why I think Cube is dumb, let me focus on the positive. The cube itself is the star of the show for me and it is incredible. The design of the cube creates an incredible sci-fi world the instant you lay eyes on it. In many of my reviews, I’ve written a lot about how set design can make or break a film, and Cube is the perfect example of a film that is watchable based solely on its art design. The premise of the cube and the slowly unfolding nature of its existence are also great, consistently keeping the viewer engaged and interested in figuring out what’s going on.
Conversely, because Cube is low-budget (and I’m sure a good portion of that budget went into building the cube set), there just aren’t enough traps to satiate the horror fan within me. It’s a stretch to really call this a horror movie — it’s more of a sci-fi thriller — but it’s enough of a horror movie to make you want to see the characters meet some grisly deaths. Especially when two incredibly well-realized deaths happen within the first 15 minutes. Pretty much every character death after that point isn’t trap related, and is therefore not as good or as memorable as it could have been. I understand why it is the way it is, and it works fine as it is, I just would have liked some more inventive deaths. Call me a sadist, if you must.
Cube is also annoying because it’s mostly people yelling at each other. This type of movie always gets on my nerves, and Cube is no different. Thankfully, Cube is more interesting than it is boring, so I was never annoyed enough to stop being entertained. That being said, probably my favorite scene in the film (not counting the awesome slice-and-dice opening) is when the characters decide that in order to continue their journey through the cube maze, they must cross a sound-based trap room. They silently make their way through the room one by one, and the tension is molasses-thick. If only there were more moments when they wrote in excuses for the characters not to yell at each other.
In spite of my nags, I did enjoy Cube quite a bit this time around. I thought it was great that they never explained much about the cube or its purpose, instead posing questions and leaving the answers for the audience to decide. I’m sure the sequels will be more exploitative, especially because the original creators weren’t involved, and all that fun, ambiguous mystery will be unceremoniously shattered. I honestly don’t know how they would even make a sequel to this, as it seems to have run its course well-enough here. But we’ll see about that next week!
Cube was a Reader’s Choice selection from Rodney of Fernby Films.