In this horror classic, a bunch of people find themselves in a mysterious building made of cubic rooms. They try to find the exit, but each room leads to more rooms, and each holds deadly surprises.
This is a horror movie from an earlier age, late 80s and early 90s, when the focus was on mystery, gore and high concept, in the same line as say Event Horizon (1997) and the Hellraiser series. Nowadays everything is jumpscares and ghosts. Nowadays everything sucks.
It is so easy to tear this movie apart, dismember it like one of the characters, but this movie was dirt cheap. 300,000 dollars and 1 room, which is nothing. What they accomplished with those dollars is a lot.
You’re thrown right into the situation of the characters. No explanation, no nothing. Which is great. We wake up in some weird metallic, industrial room, cube-shaped. Like we are a mental patient abandoned on a Borg ship. Our skinny guy is like: huh, what is going on? He opens all the six hatches, and discovers six further cube rooms, which also have hatches. This is a great start and draws everyone in immediately. It sets the tone of mystery and horror.
The editing is really fast. The camera jerks from one actor to another and it makes it dynamic but also a bit frantic. But it is like the cinematographer changed his mind and toned it down quickly.
Definitely the worst element is the characters, which are straight up cartoons. We have a young lady who is overly scared, a dopey man who is overly difficult, a cop who is overly bossy, an old lady who is overly…uh… says things like “holy cats!”. Only the old cranky man makes his dialogue sound natural. These were all cheap actors, mostly from TV shows and a bit hit or miss in their performances. Mostly miss.
It’s a good thing that the basic concept of the movie grabs your attention and keeps you watching, because the acting is really horrible. The script assumed a more natural delivery, so some dialogue that would have been interesting instead becomes almost unintelligible by the dead delivery in the film.
Of course, all the characters have some sort of function, some role to play. It is why they were put there together. It sounds like clockwork plot, but not all of it makes sense. The explanation behind the cube is interesting yet silly, with a chewed-out social commentary behind it. Anyway don’t think too deeply about it. You can be frustrated instead with the characters who are senselessly arguing with each other. It is one of those films where people have to solve the basic task of cooperating as a team, but they don’t communicate well and fight for no reason.
The scare and gore levels are not so high. Most of the film rides on the tension of not knowing what is going to happen next with the cubes, and on the conflict between the characters. If these are the two legs on which the film rests, only the cube mystery is really effective. The characters turn psychotic, but it mostly for horror-form and not out of any logic. That also makes the ending rather unsatisfactory.
Better acting and character design would have lifted this movie up so much that it would have become a real acclaimed classic. Instead, it’s a cult classic and still worth seeing. The basic mystery is compelling enough to keep watching to the end.