It has been a while since I have opened up the vaults. So why the hell not open it now and take a look at one of the more underrated horror movies of the late 90’s. Horror movies of the 1990’s kind of sucked, let’s just be honest. Everyone was going through their cynical rebellious phase which worked well for a lot of stuff like music… But it didn’t exactly do any favors for the horror film industry that made every movie look like they couldn’t be bothered to make anything of value. But there were a few hidden gems out there. I have already mentioned Event Horizon in the past and now I am going to mention another fan favorite of mine, The Cube. I will say this right now, The Cube 2: Hypercube and The Cube: Zero are absolute trash and besmirch what the original movie set out to do. However, the first movie is an excellent film with a unique message of what happens when bureaucracy runs wild.
Set in an omnipresent cube, six people wake up to find themselves trapped inside with no recollection of how they got there in the first place. Most of the rooms in the cube have deadly traps inside that threaten the protagonists at every turn. The protagonists must come to terms with their surroundings and learn how to avoid the traps and escape the dreaded sarcophagus.
There is a Unique Message
If you take away the other two movies, the theme of the first movie is something that, I personally, have not seen in any other movie. The theme of The Cube is a cautionary tale of what happens when bureaucracy runs rampant. During the movie, one of the character who designed the outer shell of the cube, named Worth (David Hewlett) has an excellent monologue about the fact that there is no master plan, there is nobody at the top, or one gigantic conspiracy. Instead, the Cube itself is just some headless blunder. It is nothing more than a perpetual public works project that’s original purpose was forgotten or lost in the shuffle years ago when the people who originally came up with it either sold it or were voted out of office. After that occurred, the project was kept in place solely because it kept people employed and it kept people working on the project. In other words, it was a project with no real purpose except to generate money for the people working on it and the only reason that their are people inside it running the rat maze is because “it is there and if you do not use it then you have to admit that it is meaningless” which would be the ultimate sin.
It is certainly a refreshing change of pace to see a movie without some motivation or true villain. The “puppet master” is not there and is instead just six people forced into a cube for the sole purpose of saying “hey, this thing is important! See? All this work wasn’t in vain.” The movie does suggest that this is some sort of psychological experiment when the main villain of the movie, Quentin (Maurice Dean Wint) is a sort of poison meant to impede the other’s success. But beyond “eh let’s do some sort of experiment” there really is no other motive that can be found. It is truly a story of what happens when bureaucracy is out of control and perpetuates itself because nobody wants to ask why or cares about the answer. It is certainly something special and not typically seen in the horror movie genre.
Way to Stretch a Budget
All things considered, this movie was somewhat easy to make. Making each of the rooms identitcal save for the color of the box itself as well as focusing it on the six character instead of their surroundings makes for a well adjusted budget that is almost guaranteed to turn in a profit. The budget for this movie was only $350,000 which it easily was able to almost double at the box office and what money was doubled at the box office for the indie darling was shot into epic proportions with the VH/S, DVD, and so forth sales that would follow.
It is refreshing, for independent filmmakers, critics, and fans alike, to see a movie on such a minuscule budget make quite an impact. It is the same reason why Paranormal Activity was such as success. Whenever a crew can stretch a budget and still make the movie look legitimate, and dare I say it, beautiful… That takes an exceptional amount of skill that I applaud.
The Acting is Hilariously Hokey in a Character Based Movie
Well… You got to cut corners somewhere I suppose and with this one it comes from the actors. This is tragic due to the fact that The Cube is a character driven movie. It focuses on them in various rooms with nothing but themselves and what is going on in the next room. The story needs good actors to carry the film’s weight on their shoulders and tragically it just isn’t here.
David Hewlitt, of Stargate fame, puts forth a strong performance if not somewhat wooden from time to time. But the rest… Well each one of them has their hokey moments. Nicole de Boer, who plays Leaven, seems to have a very wooden appearance as well as not knowing what to do with her eyes that typically seem to want to jump out of her head. Nicky Guadagni, who plays Holloway, is supposed to be a conspiracy theorist and somewhat free spirit type. But she only comes across as a woman who has painfully violent mood swings and you cannot lock on what emotion she is using in each set or whether or not she is using all of them at once. The aforementioned Wint may take the taco though as a person whose slowly inducing rage comes across as almost comical. His voice constantly cracks when he gets angry that makes you want to laugh your ass off. In particular, when he is yelling at Holloway, and the line “SNIFFING THEIR BUSINESS” is uttered like a thirteen year old going through puberty, you cannot help but stop and laugh at the ACTING TALENT on display which takes you out of the moment.
It is very much tragic considering the fact that this movie is a character movie. You need these actors to carry your entire script but tragically some of them just are not up to the task.
The hokey acting aside, this movie truly is a forgotten gem that I encourage everyone to check out at least once. The message is unique, the story is there, and it builds enough suspense to keep you guessing at every turn. It is currently making its rounds on Prime, Netflix, and Hulu so I suggest checking it out.
Final Score 4/5
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