For those who remember, the 2000s was a decade filled with American remakes of popular Asian horror films. These ranged from great (The Ring, The Grudge) why did they bother (Shutter, The Uninvited, The Eye, Dark Water). However, Screambox’s latest original film switches the formula and is in fact a Japanese remake of a cult Canadian horror/thriller film.
1997’s Cube was a claustrophobic thriller that dealt with survival, social dynamics, and leaned more heavily into math that any other horror film that comes to mind. However in 2021 a remake of the same title was released in Japan, and now in early 2023 it’s getting its American release thanks to Screambox.
This remake follows many of the same beats and plot points, while veering off into its own territory near the end. It has a sense of style, but seems to continue the trend of unnecessary remakes where the only difference seems to be the language spoken.
Strangers in a Cube
Given that this is a remake, it’s very difficult not to automatically compare it to the original. And we’re going to try and judge it on its own merits (at first). Much like its source film, this one opens with a group of strangers dressed in strange jumpsuits and boots as they find themselves in a cube-shaped room with doors on either side.
Some doors lead to gruesome death, while others continue this endless labyrinth. Getting to know each other and learning to work together, the prisoners begin to figure out the pattern involving the sequences of numbers written on the doorway of each cube.
After finding some initial success and working as a team, some of their differences in personality get in the way, which leads to hostilities. While we’re genuinely trying to avoid comparing it to the original Cube, this version really does follow it almost to a tee. Sure there are differences between the characters in both iterations, but they both kind of fit the same vibes and personality types.
Attempts at Surrealism
The one area that this one really stands apart is in its use of surrealism and CGI, especially towards the third act. There are simply more visual effects options for lower budget films today than there were in 1997 due to advances in computer technology. We also get glimpses of the prisoners in their lives before being trapped in the cube.
Things get downright trippy towards the end, and for a movie that struggled to stand apart plot-wise, it does manage to stand apart in terms of style. Its goal is less about a straightforward story and more about weaving mysteries and a feeling of disorientation.
One of the largest burdens placed on remakes is justifying its own existence. Because if you’re just going to do a shot-for-shot imitation, there really isn’t a point to remaking something. The idea should be taking some theme or concept from the original, but exploring it in a different way. And while this version of Cube certainly makes some creative stylistic choices, it’s pretty much the same tone, plot, and story beats.
Honestly, the most surreal part of this movie is that here in the U.S., we’re so used to seeing English-speaking remakes of foreign horror movies that it’s odd to see the opposite. Even though, whether most moviegoers realize or not, American films have been remade by foreign countries for decades. The practice is not at all uncommon.
But with Screambox debuting this as an original, it makes for a really interesting watch for this reason alone. Not because this version of Cube does anything profoundly unique or different from the original, but for the perspective of how films are remade nation to nation, culture to culture, even our own.
What do you think of Cube? What other American/Canadian horror films would you be interested to see foreign remakes of? Let us know in the comments!
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