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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
CUBE was originally released in 1997, but because it is a Canadian indie movie it had trouble getting decent distribution. Tri-Mark Pictures, the distributor for the U.S.A., would have done well to front the money for a theatrical release. CUBE is not only that good but, even with the no name cast, it outshines a lot of the big budget pictures released in 1999.
Canadian visitors and some European visitors will have no trouble remembering CUBE, as it did quite well in Canada, France, Germany, and Belgium in 1998. I first saw CUBE at my local video store this year in February. Having seen the trailers for it while watching other Tri-Mark movies, I was intrigued.
The movie was written by three Canadian friends, Graeme Manson, Andre Bijelic, and Vincenzo Natali - who also directed.
Natali is a hot up and comer in Canada whose short films have already won critical comparisons to fellow Canadian David Cronenberg, as well as John Carpenter and Dario Argento. This is nice hype for anybody, but Natali shines with his own light in that he has created a horror picture that requires the audience to Think. It is rare indeed when a SF/Horror movie contains a mystery as well. It is this mystery that makes the audience try and solve the puzzle of CUBE before the characters.
From the beginning, CUBE let's you know what you are in for with a surprise, By - The - Throat kind of opening scene. This opening moment creates the tension of the film, which is largely character driven, that carries the audience to the edge and keeps them there.
A man (Julian Richings: MIMIC, URBAN LEGEND) wakes up in a room alone. The room is perfectly squared with machinery built into the walls. The machinery serves no apparent purpose, yet there it is. There are also doors in the center of every wall, roof and floor.
He has no idea why he is there.
Time passes and the man's jailer brings no food. There is no place to eat, wash or relieve waste. Another person comes in through one of the doors, also looking for escape. They leave and find more people, all join the quest to escape, none know why they are there.
So they go, from room to room, searching for a way out. But some of the rooms are deadly traps. Traps that are triggered by movement, or heat, or sound, or . . . ?
And there is no way to tell what rooms are traps because they all look the same.
Some of the rooms are timed traps. They are safe within a certain period, and then you'd better get out.
To keep alive and escape the prison before they starve to death, the group of prisoners must discover a way to safely go from one room to another. As we learn about each character, we start to wonder: Have they been brought together by design? Do they deserve to be imprisoned? Do they deserve escape?
There is gore where necessary in this movie, and it has some extreme close-up gory scenes. Yet the blood, instead of serving as the cathartic release, only serves to heighten the tension.
Our group of prisoners need to rely on the talents of every member. No one can be lost: not even the cruel, not even the stupid. As an audience member, you wait and wait for those insidious traps to snap out and catch one of the characters off guard, and this movie plays no favorites.
There are no giveaways as to who will live and who will die. No dim-witted arrogant teenagers, no obese people who can't stop eating, and no pinch-brains wandering down dark hallways because they heard something that scared them. There are no horror clichés of any kind in this movie, which is refreshing enough in itself. It's just too bad that the screenplay didn't give more substance to the actors. I really didn't care about or for any of them. There is no one to root for.
This movie was created entirely by newcomers to the Motion Picture field. For many, this was their first professional production of any kind. This makes CUBE all the more amazing as it is a Class-A release. I've watched and enjoyed many a horror movie and other indie release with a very forgiving heart, saying to myself 'This is good for a first attempt.'
CUBE is Great for a first attempt! CUBE is great for a well established writer/ director / producer. There is a new and wonderful wave of SF/Horror/Action being made these days from wholly new talents like the Wachowski Brothers (THE MATRIX), Sean Gullette and Darren Aronofsky (Pi) and now director Vincenzo Natali, who along with his co-writers / friends Andre Bijelic and Graeme Manson, have brought us CUBE.
The Digital Visual SFX, of which there are few, were directed by Bob Munroe and John Mariella of C.O.R.E. Digital (MIMIC), whose CEO is none other than William Shatner (IMPULSE, THE DEVIL'S RAIN, INVASION OF THE SPIDER KINGDOM, STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN).
Make-up effects, including the opening scene, were created by Louise Mackintosh, Ray Mackintosh, and Russel Cate of Caligari Studios.
Production Designer Jasna Stefanovic and Art Director Diana Magnus were responsible for the fascinating and deadly look of the prison rooms which make up the CUBE.
Keeping the edge, and our attention, at a time when our eyes must be surely getting bored with seeing the same looking room after room after room with the same limited number of characters, must have been a daunting task for any director: even with the intriguing room design. But Director of Photography Derek Rodgers did it.
Another kudo must go to sound recordist Steve McNamee and sound effects editor Steve Barden. Trust me when I say, you'll find yourself tensely listening for the hiss, click, or snick of a booby trap preparing to spring.
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!
Now back to the review -
Another great thing about this movie is its Twilight Zone flavor. It doesn't take the viewer long to draw comparisons between this and some of Rod Serling's work. Yet the movie will not let you down with aggravating TZ rip-offs like these people actually being toys in a box or humans in a toy town on another planet.
For the characters in this movie, the puzzle is real, it must be solved. What would you do if you found yourself in the CUBE?Five Shriek Girls
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