– Summary –
Director : Ernie Barbarash
Year Of Release : 2004
Principal Cast : Zachary Bennett, David Huband, Stephanie Moore, Martin Roach, Michael Riley, Mike “Nug” Nahrgang, Terri Hawkes, Tony Munch, Jasmin Geljo.
Approx Running Time : 97 Minutes
Synopsis: A young man whose job is to watch over the Cube endeavours to rescue an innocent woman trapped in one of its rooms.
What we think : Decent, but not awesome: Cube Zero delivers more of the same, and actually is an improvement on Hypercube. A great conclusion to this trilogy.
Cube Zero, the prequel to the original Cube, sees a return to basics from the hyperbole of the sequel, in that the tension and mystery is resoundingly effective, and the expanded narrative is creative and appropriate.
Unlike Cube 2: Hypercube, Cube Zero takes us back to the early days of the original cube, and tells two parallel stories: earlier occupants of the death trap, and those who watch them. It returns us to the themes of dehumanization, both inside and outside, as the mysterious company that created the cube structure, Izon, subjugates it’s victims to all manner of horrible deaths.
Director Ernie Barbarash recreates the claustrophobic feeling of the original film, whilst managing to expand the cramped, dingy atmosphere to the external story beyond the cube as well. The playful Wynn and the dominant Dodd watch the captives inside the cube, Wynn beginning to feel slightly uncomfortable at the torture and murder committed inside the mechanism, whilst Dodd remains more company oriented, and slightly nervous, about events inside.
The film is more grounded that the immediate sequel to Cube, and while I found Hypercube was a little overblown, Cube Zero manages to retain a sense of realism akin to the original.
The setting for Wynn & Dodd, the control room monitoring the cube rooms, is a dank and dark affair, cluttered with cables, shadows and cabinets. The omnipresent drone of the nearby cube is subtle, yet strangely comforting. Here, our two plebs become slowly engrossed in the affairs of the cubes current inhabitants, and when Wynn decides to buck authority and enter the cube himself, things go all pear shaped. Once Mr Jax comes along, the film veers wildly between serious thriller and warped comedy, mainly as Mr Jax leers and japes his way across the screen.
The arrival subsequently of Mr Jax and a couple of cronies only serves to heighten the tension (even though from that point on, all grip on realism from our villain is lost under a veil of hamm acting and atrocious scripting) as Wynn tries desperately to lead the cube-ites out of the death trap before the machine reconfigures to it’s start position, unleashing a deadly thermal beam that rids the cube structure of any living tissue.
Of course, throughout the film most of our cast up and die, most in various horrific ways while scurrying through the cube. The tension ratchets up, the consequences to us are known (from both previous films) however this doesn’t stop us hoping against hope that somebody will actually survive this thing.
Is Cube Zero as good as the original? Well, no, it isn’t, but then, it doesn’t have the original’s originality. We already know the premise of the cube structure, and it’s this knowledge that hampers the build-up in dramatic tension as we await our cast’s fate. Unfortunately, the rigidity of the cube as a plot device ensures that we have at least a partially pre-conceived idea of what’s going on. The same plot twists (number and letters between each room, for example, it taken from the original film and slightly skewed to great effect here) are modified a little, giving the story a slightly revisionist feel. However, the fact that they’re still stuck in the cube would predicate most of our assumptions to what’s going to happen.
To be honest, I was more surprised with this film than I was with Hypercube, given the “been-there-done-that” feel you get at the start. Production value on this film is excellent, well above what was achieved in either previous films, and the lack of any alternate dimensionality in the plot means you at least get some sense of believability out of it. At least you got the sense of a certain sense of pride behind the camera, even if things don’t quite gel together.
The cast try hard, yet have a problem dealing with the often wooden and clunky dialogue. Logic leaps abound, and sometimes you catch yourself mentally smacking yourself on the forehead as our heroes make decisions that border on insane. Still, things bounce along quite well, although if I had to pick one thing with the film to really gripe about, it would be the pacing in the scenes with Wynn & Dodd in the control room are strangely slow, almost painfully so: it’s here that the story doesn’t hold up, one feels, and the director is simply trying to pad things out a bit.
Still, standing in a line-up with it’s sister films, Cube Zero does have some good stuff going for it. A strong central plot conceit is obviously a catalyst for the films success, and with tenuously developed narratives within that conceit, Zero delivers a much more solid effort than Hypercube. Of course, neither can match the raw ferocity of the original film, and while this is disappointing, it’s not unexpected.
Cube Zero is a decent sci-fi thriller, with plenty of great effects and plot twists to keep you interested, if not entertained.
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