More noise than signal

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Strangers awake in a strange place, as six souls find themselves trapped in an incomprehensible maze, and struggle to, well, comprehend it. Taken from their normal lives by unseen forces, seemingly at random, they are placed inside a malevolent Rubik’s cube of deadly traps.

Maurice Dean Wint’s Quentin McNeil, a police officer, takes the lead in driving the gang forward, on the basis that it’s got to be better than sitting still, aided by Wayne Robson as Rennes, also known as “the Wren”, a serial jail breaker. Nicky Guadagni’s Dr. Helen Holloway provides both medical attention and a running commentary from the, admittedly now somewhat justified conspiracy nut perspective, and while no-one’s quite sure initially what despondent cynic David Hewlett’s David Worth’s function would be, turns out he’s unwittingly a small cog in the design wheels of whatever this structure is.

On the “possibly working out some method in the apparent madness” is Nicole de Boer’s Joan Leaven, a young maths prodigy, and after a fashion, Andrew Miller’s Kazan, a severely autistic man with the capacity to factor prime numbers with amazing speed, which will help them decrypt the few clues to navigating and surviving a cube that seems eager to kill them via slicing, dicing, acid attacks and various other surreal, borderline physically impossible health and safety violations.

For a low budget debut, Cube is still a quite remarkable piece of business, and not just commercially. While it’s not without a clutch of flaws, the central mystery of what on earth this structure is, why it’s been built, and why they find themselves in it is a really strong hook to pull you thought the ninety minutes, alongside the constant threat of a grizzly end. Indeed, it’s masterstroke is that it ultimately gives no answer at all to these questions, a pitfall the sequels blundered into.

It looks much better that it’s budget would perhaps imply, the highly stylised nature helping greatly, and while the dialogue and performances aren’t particularly memorable, it falls squarely into good enough territory. It’s only main failing is, apparently, not not having a way to end things, with some changes to Maurice Dean Wint’s character coming out of nowhere, and making matters even worse by making him do a cut-rate Jason Voorhees tribute act in the final stretch.

Fitting, I suppose, for a sci-fi horror, but I was more on board with the sci-fi than the horror, so, well, the final reel is perhaps is more of an ending than a conclusion. Yet, still a bold and distinctive debut directorial turn from Natali and worth excavating these twenty odd years later.