REVIEW: ‘CUBE’ Manages to Stand On Its Own

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Cube (2023)

Remaking a cult classic is difficult. You have to capture what made people fall in love with the original while also iterating enough to make “your” version feel necessary or, at the very least, appreciated. Tackling a film as stripped and character-driven as 1997’s Cube, well, that makes it even harder. That said, Cube (2021), from director Yasuhiko Shimizu and writer Kôji Tokuo, takes on the task with original Cube writer-director Vincenzo Natali as executive producer and strikes the perfect balance of honoring the original and creating something new. It stars Masaki Suda, Anne Watanabe, Masaki Okada, Takumi Saitoh, Kôtarô Yoshida, and Hikaru Tashiro.

A SCREAMBOX Original in the United States, Cube (2021) is easy to get a hold of if you’ve seen the original. In it, a group of strangers wakes up in a mysterious room inscribed with unfamiliar codes along the doorways. Looking for ways to escape, they discover that rooms are either safe or they are rigged with lethal traps. Depending on each other to find a way out, the group starts strong, working their way through each room. But as fear and distrust swirl around them and mistakes are made in understanding the puzzles the Cube poses, the group must work together to survive the sadistic maze and each other.

Cube (2021) brings back elements from the original in fantastic and sometimes even more brutal ways. While fans of the original will recognize some traps, the inventive nature of each room and the way the kills are captured yield an intense result. This tension is built first by the caliber of the effects and how the slow way in which we see the results of a trap, which is particularly good in the film’s opening and repeated to great effect throughout. Second, the tension is paced well and throttled as the audience learns more about each of the characters. Utilizing flashbacks and even projections, Cube (2021) gives complexity to each character visually.

While I think it would have been possible to add layers without explicit flashbacks, as the original did, the breaking of one location for the film doesn’t detract much from the overall claustrophobia of the film. We see more about the characters and who they were outside their trap-filled prison and with that, sympathy is ramped up, as is understanding. While I don’t think every little bit of a character needs to be told instead of left to the audience to piece together, the way the flashbacks are used sparingly and only to build effect allows the film to play with ideas of guilt and sacrifice that lend to the relationships built within it.

Additionally, more violent than the original, Cube (2021) also manages to maintain its focus on the psychological even though it offers up some bloody thrills too. Balancing against expectations and what it presents allows this remake to feel separate enough to warrant its own existence. A huge fan of the original, the changes made in Cube (2021) make it function as a different film. While the original was built around distrust and constantly needing to believe what is in front of you and nothing else, this take on the cube asks tells you which characters you can trust and forces you to react when something bad happens to them. The film functions differently sure but the paranoia sewed among the characters and how they handle the stressful situation still allows for compelling character studies to take place.

This is particularly true for the film’s “lead” Yuichi (Masaki Suda). With Yuichi, we see a man struck by guilt and remorse, so much so that eats at him in every situation. While his guilt is exploited by the Cube and by his fellow cube-mates, it’s how he works to make peace with his past that really defines the film’s focus on characters. He’s the strongest character in the film and how the audience views each of the other characters through primarily his lens. We relate to each character, even as we learn information that he doesn’t know, as he would, and that small trust helps make this film unique. This is highlighted in Yuichi and Chiharu’s (Hikaru Tashiro) relationship, which serves as a penance for past sins.

Cube (2021) is a remake, but honestly, it’s more using the same concept to tell a different story. With enough changes in presentation and the tension drivers, while still honoring the 1997 classic, it’s safe to call this film a success. If anything, the most faithful element in this film is the use of practical effects and how the filmmakers were able to capture a claustrophobic science fiction horror with the same passion as the original. Even with its changes to the original, Cube (2021) is a good horror film, offering up dramatic character moments that, when coupled with interesting effects work and the familiar setting, make it stand out.

Cube (2021) is streaming exclusively on SCREAMBOX April 11, 2023.

Cube (2021)
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10


Even with its changes to the original, Cube (2021) is a good horror film, offering up dramatic character moments that, when coupled with interesting effects work and the familiar setting, make it stand out.

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