By Steven Moore
Cube came out in 1997, a time when the indie film moviement had started getting its sea legs. Successes like Clerks, Reservoir Dogs, and Slacker had shown that studios were required for distribution but not filmmaking. Cube, in my memory, was the first independent sci-fi film. With a budget of $250,000, it managed to create a sci-fi thriller unlike anything I had ever seen. I was astounded by it’s Kasfkaesque story, great special effects, and unique style.
After watching it again recently, I realized that I was very young when I watched this. The film has serious problems. The acting is almost uniformly painful, and none of the characters seem to fit their role. Maurice Went, playing Quentin, the alpha male who slowly devolves into a statutory rapist, overplays his part to the point of absurdity. Nicole Boer, playing the college mathematician, seems about as comfortable with math as a theater major can pretend to be. Acting aside, the camera work rarely uses a clean shot, instead preferring extreme angles and closeups. I can almost hear director Vincenzo Natali repeating to himself, “My Professor said to let the camera be the emotion.” The film generally feels like the work of a young filmmaker with inexperienced actors.
What is incredible here, though, is that the movie survives all the amateurish mistakes to deliver a great story that sticks with you long after the movie ends. The notion that at any moment, I could wake up inside this murderous government pork project is horrifying. That alone makes Cube an important entry into the sci-fi canon. In the hands of someone more skilled with a camera and less interested in rape scenes (avoid Natali’s Splice at all costs if inter-species rape isn’t your thing), this movie could have been amazing, without qualification. With today’s special effects, a director who isn’t still paying off his or her student loans, and actors who can carry their role, a Cube remake could be a beautiful thing. I’m looking at you, Christopher Nolan.
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