Warning: This review may contain traces of spoilers, and may have come into contact with spoilers from other movies.
Six strangers wake up to find themselves trapped in a cube-shaped room. Each wall has a door in it, as do the floor and ceiling, and beyond these doors lie a seemingly endless network of other cube rooms. As they try to find a way to escape their prison, the strangers begin to discover that some rooms contain deadly boobytraps, and that they might have more in common with eachother than they originally thought…
Before Saw made killer boobytraps popular, there was Cube – an awesome little independant film from Toronto. No big name actors, minimalist set design, and a premise so wicked that it manages to make 90 minutes of mostly just people having conversations in identical rooms nothing short of rivetting. Directed by Vincenzo Natali (whose most recent film Splice has finally brought him into the limelight), Cube is a terrific piece of sci-fi horror that still holds up 13 years later.
One of Cube‘s greatest strengths is that it offers nothing in the way of explanation. Instead, we’re thrown into the world of the killer cube right alongside the characters like rats in a maze. We see nothing of the characters’ lives before they wake up inside the strange, experimental (?) death trap, and learn only what they reveal about themselves, which of course allows for all kinds of deceits to come to light as the film progresses. Natali really throws everything he can think of into the plot revelations, and each new discovery not only brings shock, but also clues to the solution of the puzzle that is the cube. Even the ending is left ambiguous, as any definite answer as to what the cube is and what it is for would inevitably be a disappointment. Unfortunately, the prequel film to this, Cube Zero, attempts to give us this information and totally falls on its face. If you have any interest in seeing Cube Zero, do yourself a favour and skip it. Believe me, the answers it offers only diminish the excellence of the original.
Another one of Cube‘s high points is its innovative and gruesome traps. The gore is great in this film, and as an audience we’re treated to many bloody and unusual death scenes. From the opening cube-slicer that was ripped off in the first Resident Evil film to the acid spraying right in someone’s face and eating into their skull, horror fans will find much to enjoy in this movie.
Cube‘s strengths are very strong indeed, and any place where it is good, it is really, really good. Unfortunately, the weak link in the chain is the acting, as the cast – mostly made up of actors inexperienced at the time of the film’s production – have a tendency to go a little too over-the-top as their characters’ anxieties turn into madness in the face of their desparation. Wayne Robson is solid as Rennes, Nicole de Boer does a good job as Leaven, and Andrew Miller plays Kazan extremely convincingly, but sadly Nicky Guadagni as Holloway always feels fake to me when she says her lines, David Hewlett doesn’t offer much in the way of personality as Worth (this may be a directorial decision, though) and Maurice Dean Wint goes just a little too crazy to be believable as Quentin.
Cube is a testament to how a clever premise and a good script can make a low-budget, minimalist film with only one set into a better movie than most bloated, CGI-heavy Hollywood hackjobs. It is brilliant in its simplicity and is absolutely deserving of the cult status it has achieved. If you haven’t seen Cube and you like science fiction or horror or both, then I highly recommend you look in to it. Its intelligence may surprise you.
4 out of 5