Remakes are always a dicey proposition, especially when you’re remaking 1997 sleeper cult title Cube, where the first person we saw was quickly and cleanly diced by a trap.
I wouldn’t have thought there would be any reason for a Japanese reworking of the material. If anything, I thought a J-horror version would have a higher gore quotient. Surprisingly, this 2021 film may actually have less viscera than the original Canadian work.
We still have a group of strangers awakening in one of the rooms. Others wander in from adjacent rooms. None have any recollection of how they got there. Each has been stripped of their belongings, and are clad in matching uniforms and army boots. Their shirts have buttons and those, along with the boots, will play an important role.
Each room is identical, and all six sides of each are identical: a grid of nine panels that emit a dull light, rungs between those panels and, in the center of each side, a hatch into one of six adjacent rooms. As you can imagine, trying to get into the room above or below the current location requires some finesse.
Just like in the original (and its sequels), some rooms have lethal booby traps. In the hatchway between each cube, there are three sets of three-digit numbers, and it doesn’t take long for a character to notice one of those numbers will be a prime number when that room has a trap.
Also similar to the original, the characters here don’t have much depth, and are archetypes more than they are fully-fledged people. Still, these are different archetypes than the original, and I think that partly has to do with differences between the cultures of Japan and Canada.
Still, these personalities take the movie in some territories not explored in the first. We will be shown, in pieces, one moment in a character’s life before entering the cube. That is new, and it ties into what I perceived to be an interesting theme of this version, which is more about the emotional growth of an individual instead of this simply being a struggle to survive.
No knock on the 1997 version, but the acting is a bit better in this take, overall. Another new element to this version is one character is a young boy, and our concern for him heightens the tension. It is a solid performance from the young actor. Also interesting is the sole woman in the group, who seems to be some sort of cypher. Her absence of personality makes her all the more intriguing. Try to watch for moments when she blinks—they are few and she always seems to do it purposefully.
I refuse to consider whether the 1997 or 2021 version of Cube is superior, but they both have their own merits and each explores some ideas and concepts that aren’t considered in the other. I wonder if anybody is offended when an American or Canadian movie is remade in Japan. That would amuse me, as we never seem to have a problem with Hollywood remaking films from there. I think its fair game, and about time, we started seeing what other countries can do with works that originate from this side of the pond.
Dir: Yasuhiko Shimizu
Starring Masaki Okada, Takumi Saitô, Masaki Suda, Hikaru Tashiro, Anne Watanabe, Kôtarô Yoshida
Watched on Terror Vision blu-ray