31 Screams in October, Vol. 4, #10: Cube Zero (2004)

Posted: October 10, 2018 in Movie Review

10. Cube Zero (2004)

Director: Ernie Barbarash

Starring: Zachary Bennett, David Huband, Stephanie Moore, Michael Riley

“Cube Zero” is really something special. I don’t believe that I’ve ever encountered the like before. Never has an entry to a series come this close to making me regret the time I invested in the original film. Not even “Alien 3,” which I’ve gone on record explaining how much I’ve loathed for the last quarter-century+. Like most any prequel, “Cube Zero” seems to want to tout a back-to-basics approach. I’d have appreciated that more if it weren’t for the other trapping of a prequel/sequel, which is that everything previously left unexplained must be explained. When it works, it’s great, but that’s a rarity in the horror genre. Usually, as is the case here, it’s nothing more than a messload of “Why is this happening?”

As the movie begins, we see an unfortunate soul die horribly inside of a trapped room in the cube, a scene that’s aided by decent gore effects. What’s more, the cube’s interior structure more closely resembles that of the industrial design of the cube from the original film, instead of the brightly-lit abomination from “Cube 2.” So far, so good… but then your heart sinks when attention suddenly shifts away from the cube and into a boring control room where two men named Wynn (Zachary Bennett) and Dodd (David Huband) are tasked with keeping an eye on the action inside the cube. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve found our main characters, and they’re essentially the night watchmen. Ugh!

Those inside the cube this time have no memories of who they even are, let alone how they got into their current predicament. That would be a great starting off point for the audience, as we take the journey with their characters in search of their identities as well as a way out of the cube. Instead, we find out through the technicians that these people are all convicted criminals who “volunteered” for this. All of them except for Cassandra Rains (Stephanie Moore), a political activist whose placement in the cube becomes a source of contention between Wynn and Dodd. Wynn thinks that it’s bullshit and wants to get Rains out, but Dodd doesn’t want to rock the boat, afraid of retribution from his superiors. Unable to do enough from his post, Wynn manages to sneak inside the cube to help Rains.

All of what has been summed up so far is presented in such a boring manner that you’ll be struggling to stay awake. I had to rewind at least twice during this portion of the film. It’s only once Jax (Michael Riley) shows up that this movie has any life to it. Jax is a senior supervisor for the company/government/who cares who it is behind the cube, and he’s not happy about the insubordination going on. He’s ready to murder all the prisoners now and start the experiment over with a new group. Dodd does what he can to give Wynn and the survivors a fighting chance, and Jax kills him for it. Aided by a prosthetic which gives Jax one messed up eye, actor Michael Riley delivers a hilarious over-the-top performance which could sustain most bad movies until they reach their inevitable conclusion. Sadly, even he cannot help “Cube Zero.”

To say that “Cube Zero” is a prequel that does a disservice to the original is not even coming close to describing the offenses committed by this movie. I wish I could hand out bonus points for the return to form of the cube’s interiors or for Michael Riley’s caution-to-the-wind performance, but I can’t, because this movie doesn’t deserve my generosity. Because this is a prequel, too much is done to build a quasi-connection to the first film, and the parts that don’t fail end up revealing far more than we ever needed to know about what’s been going on behind-the-scenes. Whatever “Cube 2” may have done to ruin the mystery of the first film, “Cube Zero” takes that bloody carcass, kicks it while it’s down and then shoots it in the head for good measure.

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