No more talking. No more guessing. Don’t even think about nothing that’s not right in front of you. That’s the real challenge. You’ve gotta save yourselves from yourselves.
Following on from the “Ginger Snaps” trilogy and the “[REC]” franchise, I will again be reviewing a series of films within the same franchise and this time I will be going with the psychological horror, “Cube”
A relatively well known film compared to the movies I usually write about, “Cube” is as close as I will probably ever come to using the phrase “low budget, psychological masterpiece”. The very low budget (so low budget it’s set it a small, cube shaped room with different coloured lights shone into it) Canadian film is a cult classic and a favourite amongst those who love low budget films.
It is one of the few low budget films that always keeps you guessing and until the third film in the franchise came out, you were given no idea whatsoever why these people have been put into the Cube. Whilst not to the same level of suspense as films such as “The Thing”, is comes damn close to making you feel very paranoid and the character development is excellent.
Seven people awaken in individual cubes shaped rooms, surrounded on each side by more cube shaped rooms. Alderson (Richings) dies before he can find anyone else when he sets off one of the main bobby traps within the cubes. Soon after all the other members of the group find each other but none can remember how they go there.
After initial arguments, the group decide to make their way to the edge of the maze and work out what they can from there, however, when Rennes (Robson), is killed when acid spits in his face, they all soon realise that getting to the edge might not be as simple as it sounds. Around half of the rooms are trapped and rigged to kill someone upon entry.
Leaven (de Boer) soon notices numbers on the entrances to each door and soon discovers that not only are they facing trapped rooms, but the rooms are also not static and move around. As well as struggling to survive the traps, the group struggles to overcome their growing thirst, hunger and the paranoia of Quentin (Wint).
So what makes it good?
The premise might not sound that interesting, nor might the fact that they characters are only in a single set throughout the entire film, but it somehow works because of the character work from the actors, only two of which actually went on to higher profile roles (De Boer went on to feature in Star Trek : Deep Space Nine and Hewlett starred in several of the Stargate TV series).
Wint steals the show as Quentin. At first the cop seems very reasonable, logical and one of the best chances the group has of surviving due to his intelligence, but he quickly loses his mind due to being confined in the cubes with no obvious way out. His behaviour starts becoming very threatening, even to the point where he (SPOILER ALERT) decides to let go of Holloway when she is hanging over a seemingly never ending fall.
Without that character the film would have been a no go. The rest stick together and try and band together to try and solve it between them, but Quentin just wants out and is willing to sacrifice anyone in order to do that, including throwing various people into rooms without knowing if they are trapped or not. You genuinely don’t know what he’s going to do next and that tension is incredible.
Tension isn’t just restricted to the Quentin character as there is no true way of knowing whether a room is trapped due to the different nature of sensors. Some of the rooms are triggered by movement, some by the heat of your body, the moisture on your skin, and arguably the most terrifying of all, which leads to one of the most heart-pounding scenes in film.
The characters enter a cube that is surrounded on all sides by trapped cubes (other that the one they just came from) so they decide to risk going into a trapped cube to progress. This cube is activated by sound so they have to be silent when going through, but the issue with that is that Kazan is autistic and you don’t know when he might say/do something that will get them all killed. This leads to all of the characters very nervously crawling going into that cube not knowing whether they will be killed through no fault of their own.
Unlike a lot of films, there are no wasted scenes, every single one serves a specific purpose, whether it simply showing a character trait, their history, or probably what most people tune in for, the death of a character. Now, with so few characters through, it’s hard to really keep you invested, especially as two of them die within the first few minutes of the film, one of whom you don’t actually even speak, and they have done that superbly.
Arguably the most interesting aspect of the film comes later when they realise that the Cubes aren’t static and move,meaning the simply constantly moving in the same direction isn’t guaranteed to get you to the edge. It also means that the characters that are put into the cube are well thought out and each serve a purpose. For example, Rennes is a escape artist, regularly being put in prisons and being gone soon therefore, and Leaven is a math genius, which comes in handy for the numbers on the doors.
It makes you realise just how fragile the chances of them escaping is because whilst they can still escape if one of those characters die, it makes it a hell of a lot more difficult and the early death or Rennes sets the characters into pessimism straight away.
I know this is a relatively short review and I have mentioned in the past that I do struggle when talking about films that I like. More often than not you will know if I like a film because the review is short, whereas if it goes on forever then you know before even reading that I hate it.
Cube is comfortably one of the best low budget films out there. It keeps you tense throughout and you never truly know what is going on. Although you learn more about it later on in the franchise, it doesn’t put you off watching this, especially as it has the best character development from any other low-budget film, with the exception of “Exit Humanity”, which was the first film I reviewed on the site (click here for the review)
It may not be high budget and is hasn’t dated all that well (it is 17 years old at the time of writing this), but it certainly brings a lot more to the table than films that are widely released.