Over the next few weeks BaDoink will be taking a look at cult classics – movies that have captured the imagination and remained an enduring and intriguing part of modern pop culture over the decades. Our first visit for BaDoink’s Cult Classics is to the 1997 Canadian mathematics-based sci-fi horror nightmare, Cube.
Some films aren’t your favorites simply because they’re deemed to be ‘good’. There’s a lot more to it than that. Some movies might remind us of simpler times, or specific moments, even people; it’s the same thought process that allows us to hold onto certain songs for years.
Vincenzo Natali’s Cube carries a lot of contextual nostalgia for me. Not long after moving from one end of the country to the other in order to take up a position at a new school just before my teenage years, I used to stay up and watch Cube on the Sci-Fi Channel (when it was good) well into the early hours. This wasn’t very difficult, given that it seemed to show about four times a day. But hey, if you’ve got the broadcast rights then you may as well use them, right?
At the time the usual problems associated with a child uprooting and moving 300 miles away came to the fore. Struggles to adapt, problems fitting in, an accent that stuck out like a sore thumb among my contemporaries. Okay, granted, as I near 30 those problems still exist for me but it’s a damned sight worse as a kid.
…and so I remember Cube as a good anchor point for me. Something a little more familiar as I sought to carve my own niche at a time of life that was confusing enough already.
Having not watched it for a few years since, I was a little worried that all of those memories were about to unravel and I’d be left with the wreckage of some gaudy, trashy b-movie; the wool having being pulled over my impressionable eyes all those years ago.
The premise of Cube is both simple and perplexing. A number of people wake up in a cube-shaped room with a number of hatches that go in all directions. True to form, nobody knows how they got there, who one another is, nor do they know of a way out.
But what’s this? Some of the rooms are booby-trapped? And there’s an awesome death sequence in literally the first scene of the movie? Awww yes! This is better than I remember already!
…and that’s essentially it. Random people, whose skills and/or occupations serve as some form of help, chugging from room to room in search of a way out and avoiding hilariously barbaric traps that include acid in the face, laser wires, flamethrowers and spikes-a-plenty.
We follow Quentin, a bug-eyed, lean and mean cop with a few ‘personal demons’; Leaven, a maths whizz; Holloway, a free clinic doctor with a massive “big-brother-chemtrails-flouride-in-the-water” hang up; Worth, a somewhat laconic and miserable office drone and Kazan, an autistic savant who cannot communicate verbally. What a team, huh?
Given that Cube takes place in rooms of exactly the same dimensions at all times, it’s left to the script to try and keep things afloat. It just so happens that the script is the film’s biggest problem. Aside from some of it being beyond corny, the writer’s attempts to tackle the who/where/what/why/when of the Cube itself are utterly confusing. Worth, who may or may not have had something do with the construction *cough*, tries to explain. This is the literal quote:
“You don’t get it. This may be hard for you to understand, but there is no conspiracy. Nobody is in charge. It’s a headless blunder, operating under the illusion of a master plan. Can you grasp that? Big Brother is not watching you.”
What? Answers on a postcard to the usual address please. The film’s efforts in trying to shoehorn in a socio-political message don’t work. It’s no ‘people be actin’ like zombies at the mall’ thing like Romero woulda done, that’s for sure.
Bonus points go to Maurice Dean Wint for his portrayal of Quentin. Starting off the film a stern but fair cop looking to rally people together, his inevitable descent into madness must rank as one of the quickest and most severe in the history of mental health analysis. He goes from shambling King Lear-esque figure muttering about destiny to Jason Voorhees-style unstoppable mega killer from scene to scene towards the end, which is fun but totally spikes the film’s pacing.
That’s all part of the fun though. Cube still contains scenes with genuine tension and fear, some gory set pieces and a cast really giving it their all. What more could you ask for?
Although just how they didn’t call the two sequels Cube Squared and Cube Cubed I’ll never know…