When you’ve got an idea that’s both popular and repeatable, it can be hard not to draw upon that well again and again. Yet each time, greater trade-offs must be made, as the creativity depletes. A straight to D.V.D. sequel requires this. So, in 2004 two years after its sequel, Ernie Barbarash, Set to show the origins of one of the most petrifying installations in the straight to DVD iteration Cube Zero.
We meet Wynn, who sees himself as a superhero trapped in a mysterious but mundane job, Wynn does have the ability of a mental calculator, but that isn’t needed here. He and his friend Dodd, a pair of technicians watching over people who’d rather risk the “experiment” of the cube than death. Wynn falls for one of the inmates, Rain, a woman who he can’t find her consent form and to be free to see her daughter. Now Wynn must risk it all to defy his bosses for the chance to be with Rain and risk the unrelenting horror of the Cube.
Cube Zero removes much of the doubt shed over the origins of the cube and its intentions yet paradoxically it does allow some interesting questions and observations into its nature and usage. Cube Zero also ditches the streamlined look of the sequel reverting to the classic style of Cube, this makes it feel more in place with the retro atheistic that the film sports. Filing cabinets are omni-present, as are wood-lined elevators and government agents with suits and fedoras. It’s a style burnt into the sci-fi/dystopian landscape of films like Brazil, The Thirteenth Floor, and Gattaca. A lot of the struggles faced in those films are also faced by the characters here.
A grizzly death is still an issue, executions of escapees and internal rebels are painful and prolonged, and the Cube itself is still as booby-trapped as in the last two films. Getting the Cube residents out is once again a dangerous task, that also exemplified by the presence of the supervisors, sharply dressed agents of the higher-ups, bent on stopping Wynn and being terrifyingly effective in the process. By moving the film’s focus to behind the operations of the cube, amplifies the tension.
Cube Zero takes a big gamble by revealing a lot of the mystery of the first film, and completely ignoring the plot details of the second. But by immersing itself in the ideas of other sci-fi contemporaries it brings a refreshing hint of dynamism to its brand of geometric terror. Much like the similarly named Coke Zero, it offers the same Cube Taste with zero sugar.
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