Are you feeling claustrophobic? Good, because tonight, finally, sees our long-awaited Cube Night take centre stage on the Zombie Club widescreen TV.
Released in 1997, the original Cube was something of a mini-indie masterpiece, and was shot almost entirely on one 14’ x 14’ set - made to look like many different cubes with the use of an assortment of coloured panels and light filters. As ever with a successful low-budget movie, the sequel, Cube 2: Hypercube followed shortly after, which in turn was followed by the strangely titled Cube Zero in 2004.
We were hoping to bring you all three movies tonight, in what would have been called Cube Cubed Night. Unfortunately time constraints have meant that we could only fit the first two in one sitting, so we’ve had to call it Cube Squared Night. Which is probably just as well for Jim who, and I quote, ”bloody hates trap movies”,
Cube Squared Night is brought to you in association with the letters X, Y and Z, and lots and lots of Prime Numbers
Plot Trapped in a cube
Rawshark It didn’t take Jim long to realise he was in for a long night, when the opening ‘cheese slicing’ scene brought out an almost appalled “Oh that’s fucking disgusting!”. Luckily, after the first shock moment, things settle down somewhat, and we get to leisurely meet the characters of the film, who range from Quentin the cop to Holloway the doctor and Worth the architect. (Interesting side note – all the characters in this film are named after prisons).
The premise is simple, several people wake up in a square room, with no idea of how they got there. In each square room, there are six small doors, which lead off to similar square rooms, the catch being that in some of the square rooms there are deadly traps (see earlier cheese-slicer reference). Thankfully each of our seemingly random people has a special skill, so they soon decide to team up and attempt to find a way out of their predicament, but of course, things in low-budget movie land are never that easy.
Cube is successful on many accounts, but largely because it takes a great concept and runs with it. Ok, so it may seem contrived at times, what with complicated grid numbers on each door, and sliding rooms (prompting Jim to say at one point ”Jeez, how much more complicated can this this get?” to which myself and Zomblee replied in unison ”Cube 2!”), but if you bear with it, it does all fit.
Worth lends his expertise in his architecture knowledge (it turns out he had a hand in designing the outer shell), Leaven the maths student is on hand to work out the significance of the door numbers, and even Kazan, the autistic idiot savant has a purpose which pleased Jim no end when he excitedly exclaimed that ”Nutter boy has come through!”.
So Cube - complicated and slightly contrived for sure, but still thoroughly engaging (especially considering it’s all shot on the same set) with enough ‘nasty’ trap moments to please your average Zombie Club gorehound. It’s certainly not square.
”This room moves to 0, 1, and -1 on the X-axis, 2, 5, and -7 on the Y and 1, -1, and 0 on zed.”
Zomblee What's rule number one when you're a character in Cube? Have plenty of buttons to suck, and that includes the buttons on your boxer shorts. So if you choose to wear briefs, you not only break the 'acceptable pants' rule, but you also die from dehydration in the big cube room complex. That's my theory anyway. Button-sucking aside, Cube is a tightly directed, neat and claustrophobic affair, and has enough scares and jumpy shocks and plot twists to keep you solidly entertained for 90 minutes.
So, this guy Maurice Dean Whit (who plays Quentin the asshole cop), he was apparently born in Leicestershire, here on our very own British shores. Who’d have thought it? I’m not saying he was good or anything; he wasn’t. But it just seemed like a surprise. Jim seemed to like him ok, saying quite early on, “Charismatic black lead – very Romero”, and of course he’s right; he may have some charisma without actually being very good. Like William Shatner. Sadly, Shatner isn’t in Cube, and if he were he’d probably have trouble getting through all those little doors because he’s quite old and chubby.
Why am I talking about William Shatner? I’m not entirely sure, except to say that it may be because Cube is, by ZC standards, somewhat above par in most departments, making it less suitable for our standard crap movie ZC reviews. One of its main strengths lies in its low budget-ness, an aspect that helps to further endear itself in the hearts of claustrophobic low-budget movie enthusiasts the world over.
One of the good things about tonight’s ZC is that there is no question over which movie to watch first. We could have watched Cube 2 first as an experiment perhaps, but Jim had seen neither movies while Rawshark and myself had been here before. And it was nice to go back there again.
"Prime numbers! Prime numbers!"
Jim It’s true, this was a rare occasion where I’d seen neither of these movies before because, and I quote, I “bloody hate trap movies.” Remember that bit in the Resident Evil movie with the laser corridor? That completely grossed me out. Zombies I can take, cannibals don’t scare me (not since we watched Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals anyway), mad machete killers you can outrun and burnt claw handed child molesting dream demons you just have to disbelieve, apparently. But when I first watched Resident Evil and spoke of my objection to the laser corridor, someone near me said, “oh yeah, that’s like that Cube movie!” And that was enough for me to steer clear of Cube, thank you very much.
As it happens, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. The opening scene when some guy has a run in with the most lethal screen door ever did freak me out, as did Ren the escapologist’s acid spray death minutes later, but after that the movie sneakily shifts into low-budget land where anyone could die at any minute, but since there’s only half a dozen characters in the film, they don’t. Well, until the end that is, when the body count really picks up.
Along the way though there are some right hold-your-breath moments. For example, they meet a room where any noise causes death, which is ironic as the idiot savant character has some kind of verbal diarrhoea problem. I can’t remember how they chose Quentin to go first, but watching him precariously crawl through that room while the sexy dark haired chick holds nutter boy’s mouth was so tense I think you could have heard a pin drop in Rawshark’s living room too.
In fact, come to think of it, Quentin seemed to go first a lot. There was a big row near the end as to who would go first into the spear room (“Yeah man, Bishop should go!” – Rawshark) and I think it was him again. Maybe that’s why he goes nuts and drops one of the other characters through a window (“That’s just plain rude” - Zomblee), the pressure of going first all the time?
I don’t know, what with Rawshark getting off on the funky lighting (“It’s gone all Jean Michel Jarre-y!”) and Zomblee obsessing over pants again (“He’s in his pants! Oh, they’re all in their pants…”) the last few scenes are a big jumble in my head. They wouldn’t have been if William Shatner had been in it though, and that’s a fact.
“This room is green, I want to go back to the blue room.”
Director Vincenzo Natali
Cast Nicole de Boer
Maurice Dean Wint
Runtime 90 mins
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Cube 2: Hyperspace (2002)
Plot Trapped in a cube too.
Jim "It's like Big Brother, getting a different group of people together," observed Rawshark as Cube 2 kicked off, and he's pretty much nailed it. Another set of cubes, these lit much more brightly than in the previous movie, and another set of characters with their own set of idiosyncrasies and hidden agendas. We have Sasha the blind girl with attitude, Kate the all round do-gooder, Jerry the fat accountant, Simon the creepy private investigator, mad old lady doctor Rosenswank who just so also happens to be a theoretical mathematician, and Colonel Thomas. Colonel Thomas I couldn't tell you much about though as he dies really early as the first victim of the laser wall. Oh, except that, according to Zomblee, he looks like the caretaker from Grange Hill.
And anyway he chose to die. Cube 2 differs from its predecessor considerably in the sense that the traps are not quite so immediately life threatening as in the original. Take the laser wall; it is a laser wall and as such is deadly, so much so that when the Colonel opts to stay in the first room as the wall approaches (something to do with the plot I think) he gets suitably fried. Everyone else though merely escapes the wall by moving from room to room until it stops. No boot tests, no acid sprays, no razor wires, nothing - it's a bit of a let down really.
And so is most of the middle of the film. Without much going on our minds wandered on to other more pressing matters, like which movie had the hotter blonde. Was it Holloway from Cube or Kate from this movie? ("I'm hoping she chews her buttons," - Rawshark).
Thankfully as we hit the 2/3 mark, Cube 2 does pick up mainly due to this parallel dimensions, alternate reality thingy. It starts with Jerry; he finds a copy of his wrist watch in one room only to realize upon closer inspection that it's no copy, it is his watch, with the correct engraving on the back and everything, the same as the one on his wrist. Soon they realize that it's not a duplicate watch but a duplicate Jerry, a point rammed home when after crudely stabbing Jerry to death in one room Simon meets an innocent and fresh-faced Jerry in the next.
Let's just say that by the end of the film Simon is sporting a hell of a lot of Jerry's watches up one arm, and that made me laugh my ass off too.
"Don't trust the old lady, she lies about everything!"
Zomblee More of a remake replacing black for white, and upping the ante with the whole fourth dimension angle, Cube 2 wasn’t quite as good as I remembered, but it’s still worthy of your 90 minutes if the established scenario of people looking for a way out of a seemingly impossible and highly life-threatening maze of rooms does it for you. But trust me, you've seen it all before. It was called Cube.
The cast are even more paper-thin than they are in the first movie but I thought the old woman was pretty good, though Rawshark definitely had his reservations when she first appeared, “Oh…we don’t need a dotty old woman coming along for the ride.” Of course, it turns out that we indeed do need the dotty old woman, as she conveniently happens to be a rather invaluable asset to the team.
In the Cube world of course, everyone is an asset to the team in one way or another. Everyone has a purpose. That doesn’t exactly make this rather cruel game very fair, but it does give them some kind of chance to get from one room to another, even if getting to the next room means meeting that butch asshole with loads of watches. There is scope for a clean, visual style within the confines of the walls, and I remember Rawshark referring to the “Dutch angles”, whereas Jim considered it more as “60’s Batman style.” Fair enough. I'll accept either of those.
There’s always going to be someone who says stuff like, “There has to be a logical explanation” in a movie like this and Cube 2 doesn’t make any exceptions to this rule. Then, as surely as day follows night, characters will, like, all of a sudden, come up with more clues, more theories, more meanings, before exploring those pesky parallel alternate realities on their way to the video shelf.
“This is gonna hurt.”
Rawshark You’d have hoped that after such an innovative and original film like Cube, the creators behind this film would have perhaps thought a little bit more ‘outside of the box’ (sorry) in terms of the plot for the sequel. But no, Cube 2 starts off pretty much the same as the last one, except this time the rooms are a lot brighter, the cast is a little prettier, and there are marginally improved special effects.
Aside from the blind girl and the frankly quite evil Simon, the best character of the lot is the dotty old lady, and as Zomblee says, I wasn’t even that keen on her at the start. Claiming she was in the gym immediately prior to entering this ‘hypercube’ (”From gym to hell pretty quickly” - Jim), it’s not long before dotty old woman reveals she’s actually a theoretical mathematician and is spouting off words like tesseract (not the recent Pang Bros film). And indeed, it’s extremely helpful for us that she is along for the ride, because she comes very close to being able to explain what the hell is going on when crazy thing start happening – you know, altered gravity, parallel dimensions and the such.
I say almost manages to explain what’s going on, but unfortunately she never quite manages it as Cube 2, despite featuring all the best parts of the original, soon begins to get sucked up its own ass in pursuit of ‘being different’. However, there are still moments to watch out for, the spinning diamond thing is great, as is the variable time speed room which makes some characters act in completely different speeds.
Somehow the ending seems rushed though, and then there’s that awfully teasing ending, which raises all the questions we had from the first all over again – just who is running this cube, and for what reasons? Damn, I guess I’ll have to watch Cube Zero now just to find out.
"Yeah, it's me. Good old Simon. Do you remember this, do you? Well, I've waited a long time for payback."
Director Andrzej Sekula
Cast Kari Matchett
Geraint Wyn Davies
Grace Lynn Kung
Runtime 95 mins
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So there we have it, another decent night’s entertainment at yet another great Zombie Club (although the less said about the DYNO-ROD intrusion to pump all the sewage out of the basement during the first film the better. Except to say that it was interesting to find out that if the blockage had occurred again, the DYNO-ROD guys would have installed CCTV cameras in the pipes to work out what was causing the block. No shit!)
Anyway, proving that there’s plenty of life left yet for cool, quirky and intelligent indie thrillers (invaluable low-budget script hint: put all your characters together in one room and introduce a weapon of death), Cube impressed all, even scaredy-cat Jim who ”bloody hates trap movies”.
Cube 2 was not quite in the same league as the first, but still provided enough originality and ”60’s Batman style” camera angles to prove itself as an enjoyable, although slightly brain-taxing romp. Does exactly what it says on the box. Wish they'd sucked more buttons though.
Next Week Jim brings us a double dose of Jack Palance, in the form of futuristic western, Welcome to Blood City and flying space sucker movie Without Warning.