Ernie Barbarash | 93 mins | DVD | 15 / R
I presume, from the title, that Cube Zero is meant to be one of them prequel things, going back before the original film to reveal more of the backstory and answer questions that probably didn’t need answering. It does some of this — there are unwelcome answers and an ending that explicitly links back round to the first film — but undermines it by apparently being set in some fantasy-future retro-industrial universe that doesn’t gel with the everydayness of the preceding entries. This design work is almost nice, reminiscent of films such as Brazil, The City of Lost Children, and even Blade Runner; but it’s all on a direct-to-DVD scale that feels oddly familiar from things I’m sure I haven’t seen. Derivative? Yes indeed.
One thing it isn’t especially derivative of — initially, anyway — is its two prequels. After the requisite gory opening, the camera pulls back to reveal an entirely different setup: the people who observe the cube! Except they’re still a small group (just two), confined to one room, with no idea about the people behind all this. They are, very literally, only one step removed… until one of them goes inside, and then we’re right back in familiar territory, except with an added outside perspective that sinks to new depths so low I don’t even want to explain them.
In the cube itself, we have the most gory deaths yet. Barbarash — here adding “director” to his list of crimes after producing and co-writing Cube² — lingers on the gruesome details, seeming to make the series bridge the gap between relatively old-style horror films and the new trend for sickening weirdness that Saw would kick off the same year. I’m sure gore-hounds will love it but, for me, Cube was never about how vile the deaths could be.
You have to admire them (albeit begrudgingly) for trying to do something different with the concept and give it some fresh spins. But, as ever, the series didn’t need those additions, and consequently it doesn’t need this sequel. It answers too many questions, which might be acceptable if the answers were remotely original or satisfying, but, of course, they aren’t: they’re derivative and, worst of all, quite irritating.
And that goes for the film too.
For a brief overview of the Cube trilogy, please look here.
Cube Zero featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2008, which can be read in full here.