Cube^3

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Culture, Visual

Cube2

As October’s been passing along I’ve been trying to catch up a bit on some of my backlog of horror movies. Cube and its two sequels were movies that I’d heard of before via friends, but never seen. Last weekend they popped into my mind for whatever reason, and I ended up picking up the trilogy to watch.

For the time being I’m going to limit my discussion to the first film. I’ll get to the sequels later. The concept of the movie is pretty simple: People are stuck in a cube, which is comprised of smaller cubes. In fact, the concept seems so sketchy that I was worried if the movie was going to be able to carry itself. Thankfully, it did so really well. The movie paces its revelations well enough that, even though you think there’s nothing further to unfold, there is. It works out well and keeps what could be a kind of tedious exercise, a group of people crawling through identical cubic rooms, interesting until the very end.

Although Cube is a horror movie, it’s not a slasher flick or the torture porn that passes for horror these days. Cube actually reminds me of what I thought of when I first heard the concept for Saw — “A serial killer who puts people in situations where they kill themselves,” ingenious, I thought. Sadly, Saw didn’t live up to my high hopes, but Cube is in the vein I was hoping for, a cerebral sort of horror.

Cube1

Here’s where the spoilers begin. I’ll probably also be making comparisons to the sequels, so fair warning.

The original Cube movie is a tight, intense, character-focused movie. We don’t cut away from the Cube, we don’t see flashbacks, we don’t even get to see the outside. All we have is what is presented to us. When you look at the original Cube compared to its two sequels, this is actually the primary difference between the original and its successors, and it’s what makes Cube far, far better than them.

Both Cube 2 and Cube 0 have expanded the “Cube” universe to include things outside of the Cube. In the first movie we have characters who have dialogue which tells of their lives before they were placed in the cube. In the second movie we have dialogue that is accompanied by on-screen footage. We also have opening and ending scenes that take place outside of the cube. In Cube 0 a good half or more of the film takes place outside of the cube.

Further, the mystery of the first movie is: “Why is there a Cube?”, “Who built it?”, “Why would anyone build it?”, “What purpose does it have?” We even explicitly get a character, Holloway, who proposes the Cube was built by the military, a theory that the film itself seems to discredit. The sequels discard the stimulating open-endedness of these questions and basically state outright that the Cube is created by the military/government. Its purpose is never really divulged, but it doesn’t need to be — the implication is simply that “the military” is so full of cold and inhumane people that building a Cube device and filling it with live subjects is just another day’s work.

All in all, I’m glad I got around to watching the series, but the sequels were a bit too disappointing for me to watch them again. The original, though, stands alone quite well and is definitely among my favorites in cerebral and psychological horror films.

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