anne watanabe, cube, hikaru tashiro, japanese horror, kotaro yoshida, masuki okada, masuki suda, naoyuki hashimoto, takumi saito, yasuhiko shimzu
When Vincenzo Natali made his mark with his directorial feature Cube, infusing a kafkaesque science fiction horror into the popular mainstream, there has been a desire to go back into the mechanical, cubic prison structure, and its elaborate traps.
The latest instalment to the franchise comes in the form of a Japanese remake of the original from Yasuhiko Shimizu charged with overseeing directorial duties for a modern audience. The question is however, could he create the magic that Natali generated whilst still providing something new?
From the initial outset, one would be led to believe that the answer to that question is Yes, when we follow a escapee contender roving through the nicely designed cube, (hats off to production designer, Naoyuki Hashimoto) before being thwarted by one of those hidden traps in a manner that strays from its predecessor but not without a cheeky nod.
Once we sit up and take notice however, the film slips all too easily into familiar terrain, happily trudging along to the same beats we’ve seen before. We have six central participants, all loosely based on the 1997 flick: Yuichi Goto (Masaki Suda), a 29-year-old engineer, based on David Worth; Asako Kai (Anne Watanabe), a 37-year-old staff employee, based on Joan Leaven; Shinji Ochi (Masaki Okada), a 31-year-old freeter, based on Dr. Helen Holloway; Chiharu Uno (Hikaru Tashiro), a 13-year-old middle school student, based on Kazan; Hiroshi Ide (Takumi Saito), a 41-year-old mechanic, based on Rennes; and Kazumasa Ando (Kōtarō Yoshida), a 62-year-old company executive, based on Quentin McNeil. All of whom deviate slightly though from these characters enough to keep you guessing how the creatives will lead them to a satisfying conclusion.
Despite these differences, the path is all-too-familiar and it feels like an age before anything remotely interesting occurs. In shifting the personalities a little, we lose depth in their character. The tension is lost in a predictable algorithm which becomes all too easy to navigate and notably one character in particular drifting all too easily into the background, your left pondering what their purpose actually is until a twist final revelation. By pushing them into obscurity though, is to neglect character building and results in lazy writing.
Too timid to push the remake into new terrain, and when it does attempt to be different and make its own mark, it’s a half-hearted affair. The original was a tense albeit ham-fisted tale, that struck a chord with both visual, and character development that belied the low budget. The remake sits in the comfort zone, rarely breaking out of conformity, with the exception of the one fleshed out character of Shinji Ochi played out with heart and appeal by Okada. There’s promise of a franchise expansion, but based on this outing it’ll be hard to determine if the creatives will be given the chance to break out of the cuboid prison that they have confined themselves in.
- Saul Muerte
Cube is streaming on SCREAMBOX on iOS, Android, Prime Video, Roku, YouTube TV, Samsung, Comcast, Cox, and Screambox.com from Apr 11.