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Cube Retrospective – A Cerebral Character Study

Poster for Vincenzo Natali's Cube.

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A group of strangers wake up inside a giant contraption. Each one of them possesses a unique characteristic or skill that can aid the group in their plight to try and escape the mechanism. But they must be weary, as many of the rooms within the cube are laden with traps and other deterrents. They will have to learn to work together if any of them is going to escape the cube alive.

Vincenzo Natali (Haunter) co-pens the script and directs this science fiction/horror thriller. The screenplay is very original. It is films like Cube that very likely served as inspiration for films like Saw. The idea of the Saw films revolving around strangers brought together and forced to fight for their lives while steering clear of traps may very well have been plucked directly from Cube. In addition to getting points for originality, the screenplay also isn’t afraid to show the ugly side of human emotion or paint its characters in a vulnerable and less than attractive light. Though the cast is grating at times and not always likable, their behavior is representative of how one might actually be inclined to behave in the situation these individuals are thrown into. The film sets out to do more than just entertain; it also paints an interesting character study that prompts the viewer to think about the film long after it’s over.

Natali relies heavily on the film’s haunting score and the interactions between the characters to build tension. The score sounds like it consists of an audio recording of the chants of an extremist cult. It is very unnerving. The characters are at one another throats within no time and that helps set the tone. Natali takes a simplistic approach to the entire filmmaking process. The eerie qualities of the score and the characters constant attacks on one another keep the audience from ever feeling too comfortable at any point.

Keeping with the minimalist approach, Natali makes clever use of the confined space in which the film takes place. The viewer begins to feel the claustrophobic sensation that is being experienced by the cast and that’s thanks to Natali’s simplistic but highly effective cinematography. It begins to feel like the rooms are closing in on the cast and that sensation translates to the audience.

The biggest problem with Cube is the acting. The performers all vacillate between entirely believable portrayals of their character and overselling it a bit. When they are good, they are very good but there are just as many instances where the acting leaves something to be desired. Natali successfully invokes emotion in his cast but there are instances where each of the characters takes his or her performance up to a level well beyond where it needs to be.

The effects are a mixture of practical and CGI. The scene at the very beginning of the film where a character is cut into cubes still looks fairly good almost twenty years later. Though this effect is almost certainly computer generated, it looks good. On the other hand, there are some effects that are very noticeably CG and don’t hold up as well. As a whole, the majority of the FX are on point.  And any shortcomings are outweighed by the quality of the effects that do stand the test of time.

There is no nudity in Cube. There is no reason for there to be and if a nude scene had been written in, it would have been out of place. The second film in the Cube series has a nude scene and it is ridiculous in the context of the film. But the second installment is a whole different story on many levels.

Cube is a clever blend of science fiction and horror. It is a testament to what a passionate filmmaker can do with limited means. It is a must see film for horror and sci-fi fans.

WICKED RATING: 7.5/10  [usr 7.5]

Director(s): Vincenzo Natali
Writer(s): André Bijelic, Graeme Manson, Vincenzo Natali
Stars: Nicole de Boer, Nicky Gaudagni
Year: 1998
Studio/ Production Co: Viacom Canada, Odeon Films
Budget: $350,000
Language: English
Length: 90 Minutes


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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dogs, and cat hat(s).
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