Though few will know about the excellence of the Cube trilogy from the 90s, those films rank among the horror greats. Often called the precursors to Saw, all three Cube movies utilized nasty traps and twisty survival horror that left me on the edge of my seat. That 1997 original in particular is potent thriller perfection. Japanese remake aptly entitled Cube had a lot to live up to—its mystery box of terrors do not come close to anything we have seen before. The walls of the inner cube itself were industrial and stylized in the original, while in this redux they are rather boring and simple. Gory deaths are virtually nonexistent, while in all three Canadian productions they were an obvious highlight.
Young, frazzled Yuichi (Masaki Suda) wakes up in the cold strangeness of the cube with Shinji (Masaki Okada) hovering over him. A small thirteen-year-old boy named Chiharu (Hikaru Tashiro) is nuzzled in a corner, clearly freaked out. How did they get here? No one seems to know where they are or why, even as two others stumble into the middle of this cube. Doe-eyed Asako (Anne Watanabe) climbs out of another room and skeptically introduces herself. Barefoot Ide (Tokio Emoto) comes in holding his shoes, testing room by room with them to see if the subsequent one contains a trap. Is there a sequence they must follow, a method behind the madness, or even a way out of this alive?
As the group begins to make their way through subsequent rooms, another straggler, an older company executive Ando (Kotaro Yoshida), thinks they have come to rescue him. Everyone reacts differently under pressure. The one female character has basically nothing to do the entire movie, unfortunately. The traps are by far the most interesting element; unlike the original, there is less emphasis on the cube itself and the traps within. Character flashbacks, however brief, attempt to flesh out the proceedings with greater depth. This did not need to be a slow-motion extravaganza every single moment a major player becomes in great danger. Used sparingly, slow-mo can be effective, but it just comes off as preposterous in Cube.
By sanding down its more enthralling edges and underestimating the importance of the traps, this Cube is not nearly as sharp as it should be. Why did it need to be a full eighteen minutes longer than the fast-paced original? Still, there are moments where the survival elements and dynamics make the case for being remade. Certainly, nothing feels modern about this iteration, nor is anything substantially altered from the story other than maybe the final act; Cube nevertheless entertains in a moderately successful effort.
Cube cracks the code when it premieres on SCREAMBOX this April 11th.