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Cube (1998)
Director: Vincenzo Natali

review by Steven Hampton

The Hellraiser movies feature a puzzle box that opened a door to hell. This superb low-budget Canadian SF mystery thriller puts a mixed group of six protagonists inside a huge maze of interlinked yet mobile rooms, some of which have lethal traps.
   Who are these people? Why are they here? (We may as well ask, "What's the purpose of life?") Are they all victims of a government conspiracy... an alien experiment... or just a sick practical joke? Although the answers are not easily obtained or - be warned - made entirely clear by the end of the movie, Cube is one of the most wryly intelligent and suspenseful genre offerings of the 1990s.
   Nicole de Boer (who played Ezri Dax in the final season of Star Trek: DS9) finds a key to the deliberately enigmatic hi-tech prison when she discovers there are very large prime numbers stencilled onto the doorway frames of each cuboid room. This adds a brain-teasing quality to the paranoid fears and fleeing-from-danger action, as it offers hope of escape if the group work together and attempt to 'think' their way out of trouble, but its clear from the start that the odds are stacked heavily against them.
   Despite a few scripted cheats on the advanced maths, Cube maintains its keenly science fictional sense of wonder throughout, and is essential viewing for all fans of that rarest of subgenres, hard-SF cinema.

Hypercube: Cube 2 (2002)
Director: Andrzej Sekula

review by Christopher Geary

Kari Matchett (Angel Eyes) and Geraint Wyn Davies (TV series Forever Knight, 1992) head a cast of eight in this second visit to the mysterious box room without a view. The initial set-up is remarkably similar, with prisoners waking up locked in the mysterious maze of compartments and then meeting one another unexpectedly when or if they go exploring. And yet there are unsubtle hints - and a lot more of them - that a sinister corporation is backing the apparently psychological experiments with this moving yet interconnected block of prison cells.
   Now, the deadly maze of cubes has become a hypercube (or tesseract) design that spans four dimensions. Trapped in the gleaming white-walled identical chambers, this second group of captives soon realise they are victims of forces almost beyond comprehension as bizarre devices like the whirling razor-sphere, and the shunting time-gears, begin to shred human flesh in grotesquely inventive fashion. One by one, the various individuals (including a teenage boy, a dotty old lady, and a scientist with a dark secret) fall prey to fantastic mechanisms and temporal distortions that are seemingly intent on causing the most disturbing and vicious deaths possible.
   The special effects are not quite as ingenious as they ought to be, but director Andrzej Sekula (Tarantino's cinematographer on Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) gets strong performances from the cast of unknowns and cleverly uses imaginative viewing angles, occasional split-screen effects and camera movement to overcome the stark limitations of the singular unfurnished and wholly unchanging set, where there are no shadows and musical underscoring of the homicidal dramas would be wholly inappropriate.
Cube

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