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Review by
Kelly Parks

Alien Raiders
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CUBE ZERO - 2004
Mad Circus Films / Cube Forward Productions Corp. / Mr. X Inc. / Lion's Gate Entertainment
Ratings: Germany: 18 / Singapore: M18 / UK: 15 / USA: R

Have you seen CUBE? You must see CUBE! It's a great, cool, scary movie. There's lot's of good things I could say about it but I'll limit myself to one comment: no exposition!

So they made a sequel called CUBE 2: HYPERCUBE. Since I'm not reviewing that movie here either right now, I'll limit myself once again to one comment: not good. And apparently because the sequel didn't work out so well, they decided they might have more success with a prequel. CUBE ZERO was written and directed by Ernie Barbarash. This is Mr. Barbarash's first time directing and his only other writing job was CUBE 2.

The story opens as usual, with a man waking up in the Cube. The Cube is a combination prison/torture chamber consisting of dozens of cube-shaped rooms that make up a huge, cube shaped building. Each room has a door in all four walls and in the ceiling and floor, connecting to another cube-shaped room. Some rooms are empty. Others have deadly traps. He runs into a very nasty trap involving the flesh eating bacteria.

Then we cut to a strange room, outside the Cube. Two technicians are watching the poor bastard who just died on big computer monitors hanging from the ceiling. They make some notes in a file and go back to waiting for the next incident, which seems to consume the bulk of their time. The room is dark and the machinery has a bureaucratic-fantasy look that makes sense when you watch the "making of" extra on the DVD and the director talks about how BRAZIL was one of his influences.

Much of the movie consists of the conversation between the two technicians: the younger is Wynn (Zachary Bennett: DESIRE) and the older tech is Dodd (David Huband: WRONG TURN, FREQUENCY). Wynn is a genius, able to play chess with Dodd without ever looking at the board. He's also a troublemaker, from Dodd's point of view, because he starts asking questions, like where are the other two techs (there are four desks) that used to work here and why are people being put in the Cube and why is it that neither Wynn nor Dodd can remember when they last saw the outside world?

Orders arrive from "upstairs" (via a strange note placed on a small table on an elevator) to monitor a new arrival in the Cube, a woman named Rains (Stephanie Moore: BUGS [TV], URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT). Wynn finds an irregularity in her paperwork and begins asking even more questions and then he finds out the fate of one the missing techs and it's all too much. Wynn decides to do something.

I won't tell you what but I will tell you that it causes enough of a problem that someone from "upstairs" comes down to fix it. A strange, one-eyed bad guy named Jax (Michael Riley). Jax is one of those philosophical, smart-ass bad guys that are fascinating to watch.

But can the same be said for the movie? Before I answer that I think we both know it's time for a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
The traps in CUBE were diabolical but perfectly believable. Here they're more cartoonish. For example, the flesh eating bacteria is plenty nasty but nowhere near as fast acting as we see in CUBE ZERO. None of them stretch my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point, but they come pretty close.

There's a lot of little things like that that I don't like. Part of the coolness of CUBE was how grittily realistic it all seemed, despite its odd nature. CUBE ZERO is more dream-like. Plus added details like everyone in the Cube having amesia, which they didn't in the first movie, seem out of place. Why add changes that don't mesh with the original?

But those are all choices made by the director, and he doesn't do a terrible job with them. Some scenes are mildly interesting, some of the performances hold your attention and the twist ending is nice. So it didn't suck. Not exactly high praise. I give CUBE ZERO two shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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