Every nightmare has a beginning. In this prequel to the cult hit Cube, 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... more » 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.« less
"Hello all you cubists out there...ready for another round of cubery? That's right, they made yet another sequel (in this case a prequel) to Cube (1997), the little film that creeped into the video market and became immensely popular mainly through word of mouth advertising, so much so it warranted a sequel in Cube 2: Hypercube, which begat this prequel titled Cube Zero (I assumed it was a prequel given the combination of the title and the tagline on the front of the DVD case, `Every nightmare has a beginning.' My deductions turned out to be accurate, and thus I rewarded myself with a cookie.) Written and directed by Ernie Barbarash (he also wrote the sequel Cube 2: Hypercube, but did not direct it), the film, like its predecessors, features a relatively unknown cast (to me, at least) of Canadians, in Zachary Bennett (Guest Room), Stephanie Moore (John Q), Michael Riley (Amistad), and David Huband (Wrong Turn).
The story starts off in rather grisly fashion, much like the previous films, in that we witness the inherent dangers of cube reality after a lone man stumbles upon one of the many traps contained within the cube, and meets a particularly gooey fate. This element was a real punch in the gut with the first film, but now the inclusion of a nasty death by peculiar manner at the outset has become the norm...I guess if something works, you stick with it...and it established that we are, in fact, watching a Cube movie. Anyway, it's after this we find ourselves in a dank, dimly lit control room of sorts, filled with piping, monitors, filing cabinets, and populated by two individuals, one young, smart, and full of questions, the other older, by the book sort of man (Bennett and Huband, respectively) who turn out to be technicians (yet they wear the same outfits as those poor schleps who are deposited in the cube), monitoring the activity within the cube, recorded everything for posterity, I suppose (actually, they receive orders from an as yet undetermined source). This behind the scenes peek initiates the possibility that all the questions and mystery developed over the course of the last two films may soon be answered and solved, but tease as they will, tease as they might, there shall be little in the form of answers tonight...things begin to unravel when one of the two techs, a real brainiac with the ability to visualize complex structures within his head, falls for a woman in the cube, and leaves the safety of the frying pan and jumps into the fire, which marks the appearance of Jax (Riley), a higher up assigned to deal with this particular problem, by means of manipulating the computer controlled cube and its traps. I'm really hesitant to give out any more, as I hate to spoil anymore of the film for someone who hasn't had the opportunity to see it...
While I did like the film (it was certainly better than Cube 2), I always felt any sequels to the original were unnecessary. The first film worked so well in giving us the confines of the cube, and then presenting so many questions that were never answered, and probably never meant to be answered, forcing viewers to speculate, theorize, and ultimately develop their own ideas. The following films, trying to build off the original, offer little tidbits, but only with the intention of deliberately raising more questions, creating a sort of self-perpetuating mystery. This same, exact thing was done with the movie Phantasm (1979), a great little horror film that presented a wonderful, obtuse set of questions, which were never answered, but many things alluded to in the cruddy, subsequent sequels. I doubt at the time either of these films, Cube or Phantasm, were made, there was probably much thought to sequels, so they were made in the context of being stand alone films...perhaps I'm being a bit hypocritical about my thoughts of preserving the `sanctity' of the originals, as if I was truly concerned with that, I would have never watched the movies that followed...given that this is a prequel, the appearance of the interior of the cube related that well, having a rough, unpolished look, like that of something still being developed, awaiting refinements and upgrades. The introduction of new traps (one featured a particularly nasty disease) was fun and welcomed. The focus of the story varied from the previous films in that it wasn't confined to individuals within the cube, but spread out a little more. This effectively lessens the character development of a small, core group of cube dwellers, but I did appreciate the fact we didn't have to spend another film limited to only the interior of the cube. I liked the introduction of the mysterious character of Jax, but I thought Riley's performance a little too comical and overboard, reminding me a lot of John Glover's corporate mogul character Daniel Clamp from the film Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). And what was the deal with the person who actually made it out of the cube and the introduction of the religious implication? It felt awkward and out of place with the rest of the film. All in all, Cube Zero was a good time, and for those interested I don't think you'll be disappointed.
The widescreen picture, presented in 16:9 aspect ratio looks decent, but probably could have looked better, as the darker scenes didn't always come across as well as they could have. The audio is clear, and present in Dolby Digital 5.1, along with Dolby Digital 2.0. Special features include a 20-minute featurette titled `Inside the Box', along with a director's commentary, storyboard comparisons, an art gallery, and a music video by some cruddy band featuring the lead singer moving though sets from the film singing an entirely forgettable piece of metal. There's also some trailers for other Lions Gate releases like Saw (2004), Final Cut (2004), and High Tension (2003). 3 ½ stars
An afterthought...perhaps the next film could be called 'Gleaming the Cube'...oh wait, that title's already been used...damn you Christian Slater! "
A prequel to "Cube" that still makes the original look good
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 03/01/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In the beginning there was "Cube," and it had a memorable opening in which a man enters a cube and is sliced into mini-cubes by razor wire, and it definitely caught the attention of those who watched it. As the movie continued we followed a group of people as they tried to figure out why they where there, what was happening, and how they could get out of there alive given that some of the cubes were verily dangerous. And the film ended with the mystery unresolved and the people applauded and thought that it was a fairly provocative and effective little horror film. Then the money lenders in Hollywood decided they there might be riches to be made from doing a bigger and better version of the "Cube," and lo, they produced "Cube 2: Hypercube." But the people were not fooled and they realized that the sequel had little to do with the original beyond the fact that well, there are a whole bunch of cubes. And the sound of lamentation was loud, with much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, and the people prayed that if there was another film in this series that they would go back to what made the original film so good. Then the money lenders laughed in the temples of their offices and said to each other, "Come, let us do what they ask, but in a way that will make them regret that they did not lavish more money upon the sequel that we have made."
The title "Cube Zero" is enough to indicate that writer-director Ernie Barbarash, who scripted "Cube Two: Hypercube," is going back to the start. But to reassure the audience that this film is an attempt to get back to at least the spirit of the original you once again get an opening scene in which somebody enters a cube and they die a horrible death. In fact, it is an even more gruesome death than what we say in "Cube," mainly because the victim lives after the very bad thing happens to him. The cubes this time around are about as primitive compared to the orignal cubes as the hypercubes were more advanced. As soon as you are see these cubes you have to be thinking "prequel," strictly on the basis of the obvious disparity in the technological level (think submarine hatches). But as was the case with "Cube 2," there is really nothing concrete in "Cube Zero" to convince us that this film is connected to the original "Cube" beyond that basic idea that they involve a deadly game involved with cubes (this would be the same as saying "Any Given Sunday," "Friday Night Lights," and "The Longest Yard" are all football movies, and the game is the same, but they are not part of a trilogy).
However, despite the promising start (there are people who will stop watching the film because they are not going to want to see anything worse than what happens in the first couple of minutes), "Cube Zero" has a serious flaw. Whereas "Cube" left us completely in the dark as the figure disappeared into the bright light and "Cube 2: Hypercube" had a final scene where we get to look behind the curtain for a few hints as to what is going on, "Cube Zero" decides early on to let us go outside the cube and find out what is going on (or at least more clues along those lines). That means the success of this film depends on how much the audience buys into and likes the "big secret," and in that regard "Cube Zero" does not fare as well as "The Village" (and we all know how vilified that film was by fans and critics). After all, the whole plot line regarding what is happening outside the cubes does not solve the mystery of the original "Cube," which it cannot fairly do since it is a different director and writer, any more than somebody could make a "Pulp Fiction" sequel and explain what is in the briefcase.
Those of us who liked "Cube" will find "Cube Zero" an improvement over "Cube 2" but not up to the standard of the original, but we pretty much knew we would come to that conclusion going into this 2004 film. Once again we have a group of desperate people trying to make their way out of the cubes, and the fact that this time there are not individuals who have necessary skills that can work in combination to save them gives away that the body count will be higher this time around. Being able to watch the watchers takes away some enjoyment as well, because it was always easier to watch the mice in the maze and critique their endeavors than it was to put yourself in their position. By the time the one-eyed Willie Wonka figure shows up in this movie you are pretty much committed to going along for the ride, but not exactly enthralled. Maybe there will be a fourth movie in this series, because it could end up being another one of those Hollywood puzzle boxes, like in "Hellraiser," where they just keep making these movies until they finally get it right."
A return to form, and a step beyond
The Cheshire Cody | Tarrytown, NY | 02/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Cube stands out for me as one of the only films in years that has truly impacted me.....it left me unsettled, creeped, and definitely kept me thinking about it long after the end credits had rolled. Watching it was a true rollercoaster - suspense of the finest quality. Hypercube was a waste of potential. Mediocre acting and a definite case of writers with more ambition than talent. The very definition of squandered potential. Worst of all, there was no suspense, no tension, and the "ah ha!" moments of revelation were anything but exciting.
Cube Zero brings a return to the tension of the first, and does the only logical thing it could do: answer some of the questions raised by its predecessor. Part of the beauty of Cube was the lack of answers, but also a frustration. CZ takes us "behind the scenes" of the monstrosity that is The Cube. It delivers just enough insight into that background to satisfy, but (thankfully) doesn't give it all away, and raises a few more questions of its own.
Orwell's 1984 has obviously always been a heavy influence on Cube, and that influence comes to full flower in CZ. Cinematically, the first film often posed the camera as a real observer, watching the Cube's victims. The theme is expanded upon here naturally and elegantly. Unknown, unseen controllers watching those inside the Cube, themselves being only "button pushers" for the real(?) controllers, who reside upstairs, but who themselves may be just one more layer of the onion.
The acting is fine, no true standouts, although Terri Hawkes makes quite a bit out of a small role as Jellico, one of the Cube's "residents."
A word of strong warning: this movie is extremely graphic. If you've seen the first one, you've seen gore, but some of the scenes in this one will make you think you were watching a Disney movie. I don't generally support that level of graphic content, but it did drive home the brutality of the content in a very powerful way. Those in control of the Cube are sadists, dehumanizing monsters, without question, from frame one of Cube. Cube Zero takes their horrors to a new level, with violence to match. That having been said, some of the "new" traps are positively beautiful in their cruelty, marking a sharp contrast to the often quick-an-dirty nature of those in the first film.
The ending? I won't give anything away, but I will say I saw it coming from the very beginning of the film. But did anyone ever think for a moment that the Death Star wouldn't be destroyed at the end of Star Wars, or that Luke wouldn't be the one to do it? It's the journey that matters, and this journey had every hair on my neck standing on end, and me on the edge of my seat. It has made me want to show it to all of my friends, so I can talk about some of the thoughts it's left in my head. What more can anyone ask?"
Finally we get a glimpse of the Cube from the outside..
J. Harbaugh | Athens, Ohio | 01/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I would have to recommend this movie for people who have been able to enjoy Cube and Cube 2. If you haven't seen either of those, then you might enjoy this. But if you saw either Cube or Cube 2 and didn't like them, then this won't be different enough for you to enjoy. Yes, this is supposed to be the prequel, but it will probably be confusing if you haven't seen the other two.
Cube Zero focuses more on some of the Cube's technicians then just people who are inside of the cube. It was definitely interesting and very creepy to see how much control they had, and how much they were involved. When I watched the original Cube, I felt like the people had just been dumped inside the cube and ignored, but that is clearly not the case. They are being carefully monitored.
One of the technicians is asking too many questions, and he is clearly becoming bothered with some of the things that he has to do. So he goes into the cube to help a woman. And things continue to get interesting, and scary.
You will see traps like in the previous movies. Did you know that the people in the control room can completely surround your room with rooms with traps?
There were a few discrepancies with the previous movies, but since this one is supposed to be taking place before the other two, they can be ignored. There is nothing glaring that ruins the movie.
Cube Zero is definitely a nightmarish scenario, but altogether a very enjoyable scary movie. Just appreciate the fact that you aren't in it."
If anything deserves to be a sequel to Cube, this is it.
J. J. Chiappelli | Pasadena, MD | 07/12/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I know I should focus only on "Cube Zero" in this review, but it's tough because I watched it (and most others will watch it) with some familiarity with "Cube" and "Cube 2." So, let's get this out of the way now: "Cube 2" was awful. One of the worst movies ever made. Horrible acting, a pathetic excuse for a plot, cheap effects, and a lot of unnecessary scenes. The Cube itself looked like the next in line of Apple products (iTorture)instead of something grisly and frightening, and the people trapped inside were paper-thin caricatures that never really amounted to anything before they died.
When you watch "Cube," you wonder why anybody would think a movie like that needs a sequel. It was a wonderfully existentialist horror movie---creepy, suspenseful, and inexplicable. It was a wonderful puzzle; you watched it for an hour and a half and then you spent weeks trying to think of your own explanations for why it happened. The acting was (mostly) excellent and the set design was wonderful: terrifying and gritty. The violence was kept to a minimum. There was gore, but not a whole lot of it, which means that the focus of the movie was on the suspense, not on the gore. (When a movie has over-the-top death scenes, it's not easy to really pay attention to the plot or characters anymore.)
So now we have "Cube Zero." When I began watching this, I was very worried about what kind of movie it would be. I didn't think there should be another Cube movie, and from the cover of the DVD (and the pictures on the back), it looked like this would just be another hack 'n' slash gorefest.
And for the first twenty minutes that's pretty much all it is. Needlessly gory death scenes and a whole pile of awful, awful acting. I was certain I would hate this movie.
And then something marvelous happened---the movie began to focus on the character of Eric, the technician operating the Cube from the outside. Suddenly, the movie became interesting because it had a plot and suspense and---best of all---GOOD acting. The gore is toned down and doesn't become a problem, and then the story kicks into full gear and becomes a tale of repression and rebellion.
This is why "Cube Zero" gets four stars instead of one. Despite the fact that the leading actress does a bad job and even though there are needlessly cruel death scenes early on in the movie, Eric's story redeems the movie and makes it worth watching---whether you've seen "Cube" or not. I would even say that Eric is the best character out of all of the Cube movies, and I really love the way he is tied in to the first one. The scriptwriter does an excellent job by simply pretending that "Cube 2" was never made, which is a good thing.
"Cube Zero" works because it is like talking to another person about "Cube" and seeing his interpretation of the story instead of just hearing it. It should be watched as a separate entity from "Cube." It's not a sequel or a prequel; it's just one guy's explanation for how "Cube" MAY have come about. And it's a fine story.
And the ending in this one is perfect. It gives you just the right amount of information to extrapolate and come up with your own happy ending or your own depressing ending---just like the first "Cube." I thought there was no way to make a good sequel/prequel to "Cube," but this movie changed my mind.
One last comment---the music video on the DVD is awful. Not only is it a bad song, it also has no place in the movie and really ruins whatever atmosphere the film creates."