Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'Cube' (1997)
Simple, violent, brutal.
I remember when this indie came out, I actually rented it on VHS at a Blockbuster Video (that's how old I am, people). It was sorta the first indie to really escape the Hollywood trap. Even The Blair Which was purchased and distributed by a major (while small) studio. Cube was the first movie I found out about on the 'World Wide Web.' For anyone under the age of 30, that's what the 'www' stands for. So yeah, I found out about this movie back in the days of message boards and AOL. I guess that kinda makes it the first viral horror movie. If this bad boy ever saw theaters, it was one of those privately owned theaters that plays artsy foreign garbage.
But that's what made this movie special. We're talking about a movie that broke through and became a cult classic during the period of time when the indies were a ride or die climate. It was remarkable that Cube survived almost entirely on internet viral marketing.
However, what I discovered, watching it all these years later, is that like Children of the Corn, it actually isn't very good. I'm not saying you shouldn't watch it (I definitely think you should watch it) what I'm saying is, I had to grade it on my indie curve, giving a lot of consideration to the fact that it was a shoe-stringer.
Let's face it. The acting was shit and the dialog was fucking amateur hour. This seemed like it might've been the writers first go at dialog. The CGI was nothing special, and a lot of the design of the setup leaves a lot to question.
Here's the thing, while most of this movie is garbage, all it needed was the premise and the simplicity of its execution. The director set up... what 6 colored rooms? Probably not even that. It's probably just one room the goes out and one room that goes up, and they just changed the lighting behind the panels. Their travel could be accomplished by a series of cuts between 3 rooms. The important part though, that's all the premise needed.
It's the idea of the cube that made it work so well. A 3D rat maze with deadly consequences that relies on the skills of every individual in the group. That is a claustrophobic nightmare. You have, basically until your body gives out from dehydration, to solve the puzzle without knowing anything about the puzzle, or you die. It's the first 'escape room.' There's more about this I want to touch on in the spoilers, but that's enough. That is a powerful mind fuck, right there.
The thing is, Cube is actually a good movie even though so much about it is bad. The premise and the execution of that premise just needed to be good enough for the movie to work. Everything else was forgivable.
Really, this movie is required viewing for Horror Heads, because of its significance to horror as a genre. But I dare say general adult audiences should give it a try. It might be kinda hard to watch but it's worth a shot.
The most important part of the premise behind the cube, is that it's completely senseless. It's anyone guess as to its original purpose, but whatever that was (as confessed by the character Worth), that purpose has long been forgotten. There were so many heads involved keeping the cube secret, that whatever it was actually for was completely lost in the bureaucratic shuffle to hide its existence. As Worth put it, whoever knew was either fired, assassinated, or voted out of office. It the most tangible conspiracy theory ever invented. Multiple, bloated, black government organizations, being simply to inefficient to succeed, and too self important to allow failure. Worth goes on to explain, that "...not using it would require admitting that it has no purpose."
That is some cold ass shit right there. It lost all meaning, and continued right on killing.
Obviously it wasn't perfect. It was more than just the bad acting and shitty dialog. Such as the selection process for the victims placed in the cube. Mathematician; sure. Doctor; makes sense. Professional escapist; right there with you. The guy who designed the cube's sarcophagus... wait... what? A cop?... what the fuck is he supposed to do, arrest the traps? A human, fucking calculator... why not just an actual fucking calculator? I mean, they let the mathematician have her glasses, what's one more tool?
The traps don't require any level of physical prowess, and the cop doesn't provide any special insight into the puzzles. Finally, the guy who designed the sarcophagus for the cube is a very specific role. Was this supposed to be a one shot jobber? Because if he dies, there are no more of him. I mean, I guess you could do the next run with the person who designed the inner cradle, or the person who designed the rubix mechanism. The point I'm making, there are a very finite number of individuals on potential teams to be placed in the cube. I suppose you could write the selection process off as bureaucratically asinine as the cube's very existence, however the design is extremely elegant. Anything that was designed with this level of care should have a process that is designed with equal elegance and care.
But that just brings up the biggest plot hole. There are literally thousands of interlocking cubes, millions of intricately moving widgets, many of which are unique, having the purpose of only a single trap. Not to mention the significant undertaking that constructing such a thing would take. For the kind of careless government that would have designed such a thoughtless device, it would run like a goddamn Ugo. The execution of such a monstrosity of engineering would likely break down daily. This thing wouldn't survive its own construction. It would get retrofitted into a auto-filing library where one of the rooms was still fitted with deadly traps and every year one librarian would just go missing and no one would be able to figure out why. That's how headless, thoughtless, government actually works. Things get repurposed, over and over again, until they're filled with nuclear waste and sealed with cement.
Then finally the real nail in the sarcophagus... The mathematician explains that it would take weeks for the entrance to realign and let the victims out. The cube should have just been shuffling around 6 desiccated bodies, long ago dead from dehydration. If the exit makes literally thousands of movements before it returns to home, and if it would take weeks to accomplish that feat, once you're placed in the cube, you should never have sufficient time to exit. The moment the cube is switched on, the exit would disappear for weeks from the very first movement. And because it's the only way to put the prisoners in the cube, there is no other possible outcome. It has to be there to get them in, it has to move when the cube is switched on, and it has to take weeks to move back. This movie should have fucking ended with the last two survivors realizing, by design, there really is no way out. It would have been the last little bureaucratic middle finger, and essentially perfect for the plot.
But don't let this all detract from the subtle brilliance of the simplicity of the concept. Hell, this isn't the first great horror movie with as many giant plot hole. DO give it a shot!