Cube, or One Blogger in Search of a Context

Cube is a 1997 horror/sci-fi/surreal/thriller/mind trip Canadian movie. It was inspired by a Twilight Zone episode called “5 Characters in Search of an Exit,” which itself references Luigi Pirandello’s play, Six Characters in Search of an Author. And it was weird.

Technically, the movie opens with a gruesome death, but the real meat of the story starts when five characters wake up in a cube. They don’t know how they got there, or why they’re there at all, but they’re there. Each side of the cube has a vault-like door, leading to another cube. Some cubes are booby-trapped in gruesome, Saw-esque ways. Other cubes are safe. The characters must find a way out of the cubes without dying.

I don’t want to get too spoilery, and this definitely ventures into mild-to-moderate spoiler territory. I’m not giving away that many juicy details, but if you prefer to be utterly unspoilered, stop reading now. Are you gone? This is your last chance”¦ OK, whatever. The cube is gigantic and when the characters find an edge, they see that it is sitting in a large, black void. There is only one way out ““ through a bridge ““ and it opens into an undefined and unseen area that is fully of bright, white light. There is no real context for the cube. It exists and they are there.

And maybe that works for people. It didn’t work for me. I needed a context or a reason for them to all be in that cube. I needed to know why the cube was built. I don’t mind not understanding why real life is happening, but if you’re attempting to show me an allegory, or putting in direct and obvious symbolism, then I want you to carry that theme through to the finish. Maybe, you’ll say, maybe it doesn’t matter ““ maybe what matters is their actions within the cube. Yeah, maybe, but if I wanted to see a bunch of nameless strangers destroy each other in an isolated space, I’ve got season upon season of Survivor to fall back on. I need something more.

My thoughts on this movie remind me again that I might be missing out on a lot by not seeing movies until years (decades!) after they come out. I’ve seen movies influenced by this one, and movies that influenced it, and in that context, it’s hard to pick out what made this movie so new. It feels like something I’ve seen before. This film only has a 61% on Rottentomatoes, so I might be giving it too much credit, but I know that I’ve been disappointed by the greats because I’ve watched them too late.

Anyway, that’s Cube ““ a free-floating ball of anxiety and anguish that takes me in circles. Next week, I’ll probably be back to rom-coming it, but for now, I’ll be musing over how an old thriller can thrill.

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