In this prequel to one of the most successful sci-fi thrillers of the last decade, a new group of unwilling participants frantically moves through an ominous construct of cube-shaped rooms. Each room holds the threat of hideously inventive and painful death. Finding the real exit, however, may not offer the freedom one seeks.
Cube Zero 6.75
eyelights: its behind-the-scenes revelations.
eyesores: the b-level quality of the picture’s second half.
“Once inside, he’s one of them.”
For anyone who wonders what is going on outside the multi-room trap that is ‘Cube‘, there is 2004’s ‘Cube Zero’, a prequel to the series that takes us into a monitoring centre overseeing the operation of the cube. This station is usually run by four people, who await commands from faceless supervisors. As we begin the film, we find only two men in it, with questions about the whereabouts of the others.
There is also the cube itself, which finds another groups of strangers navigating the trap-filled complex. This cube predates the one from ‘Cube’ and is more industrial looking, with more rudimentary -but equally deadly- secrets. ‘Cube Zero’ alternates between the men in the control room, which includes a chess prodigy who is far too curious for his own good, and the group of strangers trying to survive.
Interestingly, ‘Cube Zero’ was written and directed by Ernie Barbarash, the producer of ‘Cube 2: Hypercube‘. If that suggests a quick knock off sequel, it wouldn’t be surprising: it’s far cheaper to do it yourself then to hire others to do it for you. This was Barbarash’s first directorial effort, and ‘Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming’, another knock off sequel, would soon follow in ‘Cube Zero’s wake.
But the picture is better than this suggests. While ‘Cube Zero’ is hardly the best of the series, and it has an unmistakingly B-movie flavour to it (particularly from the midway point onward, when a supervisor is added to the control room) it does offer some interesting tidbits about the world of ‘Cube’, including how the victims are caught and processed. It also has a minor satirical flavour to it.
The satire comes from the perspective of the men monitoring the action; through their interactions we discover a dystopic reality with a heavily religious and political component to it. Much is left to the imagination, however, with many questions being left unanswered. Still, ‘Cube Zero’ goes far deeper than the others combined, and that could very well be satisfying to fans of the series.
The picture really does suffer from the introduction of the new character, who is a total caricature and takes away more than he contributes, but the picture would have survived the ordeal if not for an utterly implausible ending, which dispels the enigmatic quality of the cube itself. Because, let’s face it, part of what made ‘Cube’ terrifying was its otherworldliness and inexplicability.
‘Cube Zero’ ends with a nod to the original picture, which is nice; an effort was made to tie the series together, which I think is its best quality. Granted, it’s a flawed picture, lacking the innovation of its predecessor (conceptually, in the first case, and on a technical level, for the second), but it’s not without its redeeming qualities. Taken with a grain of salt, this ‘Cube’ is worth exploring.
Post scriptum: This is so far the last of the series. But there have been rumours of a 3D entry and, recently a reboot of the franchise with a larger budget.
Date of viewing: May 12, 2015