Cube is a film boxed in by its own intriguing central premise. A group of strangers awaken to find themselves in an empty high-tech room with doors in the middle of each wall. Going out to explore what’s on the other side of their strange new homes, they discover identical rooms (save for the different colors), some of which have been equipped with deadly booby traps. Six people eventually find each other in this cubist maze, all determined to find a way out of their mysterious prison before starving or going mad. Vincenzo Natali’s 1997 cult favorite has a Twilight Zone mood that’s initially quite chilling—the victims try to come to grips with their bizarre surroundings and the tension mounting among each other. A high strung police officer (Maurice Dean Wint) finds his leadership instincts challenged by a panicky psychiatrist (Nicky Guadagni), a brainy mathematician (Nicole deBoer), a brooding architect (David Hewlett) and a professional escape artist (Wayne Robson), and the group’s progress from room to room—aided by their rudimentary guesses as to which rooms contain fatal surprises—is helped by the introduction of an annoying autistic (Andrew Miller) who mumbles and fidgets like a third-rate Rain Man. As bafflement and anxiety give way to paranoia and rage, Cube begins to rely less on its atmospheric setting and more on inter-character relationships, and the script (by André Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali and Graeme Manson) isn’t up to the task. While some of the traps are frighteningly unpredictable and gruesomely satisfying—director Paul W. Anderson would blatantly rip off the film’s best death scene in 2002’s Resident Evil—the characters don’t amount to more than threadbare types. The struggle to discern the cube’s purpose increasingly takes on prominence in the frazzled crew’s search for answers, but Natali’s film is infinitely more competent at creating a clever situation then positing any sort of semi-logical explanation. Have these people been abducted by aliens, co-opted by the government as guinea pigs for an elaborate experiment, or are they simply living out a shared nightmare? The film never really makes up its mind (or doesn’t really care) so long as it provides a few decent scares along the way, and sci-fi and horror fans will be somewhat grateful for that. But like lab rats futilely running on their treadmill, Cube eventually winds up going nowhere fast.
The first DVD release of Cube featured a so-so non-anamorphic widescreen transfer, so it’s nice to find that Lions Gate has gone the extra step for this Signature Series release and presented the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are generally sharp-only a slight trace of bleeding can be found in the colorful walls-and shadow delineation is sharp. Contrast levels are solid and blacks are deep and enveloping. Flesh tones waver a bit from time to time (partially as a result of the weird lighting necessitated by the set design), but the blemish-free video is more than up to snuff. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack creates an ominous sonic atmosphere from the outset, with a satisfying amount of creepy directional effects and impressive dimensionality. The whisper-heavy score exhibits accurate fidelity, and dialogue-which has been wisely placed at the forefront of the mix-sounds natural and clear.
Lions Gate’s original DVD release featured a director and cast commentary, but the audio commentary included on this release is a brand new track featuring only director Vincenzo Natali. Natali is a captivating speaker, and he discusses not only the technical challenges of making the film but also the hurdles he had to overcome to get the film produced and released. A number of interesting anecdotes and some much-needed humor make this a well-balanced track. The rest of the extras, however, don’t really amount to much. Three mediocre deleted scenes are presented in poor non-anamorphic widescreen, and the short interview with actress Nicole deBoer features bland discussion about how great it was to work with Natali. A production and design section houses conceptual artwork and storyboards (two of which can be viewed while watching the accompanying film footage). The film’s trailer, as well as the trailer for the straight-to-video sequel Cube 2: Hypercube, are also included.
As if viewers didn’t already know, Cube proves the time-honored maxim that there’s no better guide out of a complex maze than an autistic man-child with incredible mathematical skills.