Year Released: 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 90 minutes
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Our wacky foreign neighbors to the north have thrown us this nugget to populate midnight screenings at college campuses around the country. Director Vincenzo Natali spins this tale of 7 ordinary people (one doesn’t make it through the title sequence) who each awake in a cubic room with a door on every surface. Each door leads to another cube, seemingly forever, with some cubes containing lethal traps. There’s a math student, an architect, an escape artist, a doctor, an autistic, and a cop (Sorry, no Indian or construction worker). None of them know how they arrived there, but each may posess a skill to escape, or a flaw that will kill them and others.
With basically a single set and a limited cast, the producers get the most of their limited budget, particular with a couple of spectacular death scenes. However, since they have cast some obvious stage actors who are projecting to the back of the theatre, the whole picture can often seem like “Doctor Who” on crank. At 90 minutes, Natali is able to maintain incredible tension until fifteen minutes from the end, when one character turns on the others, turning the story into a simple race and dispersing all the human complexity. The movie becomes conceptually muddled by laying on too much social and political allegory. At the point where the one cracks up, it seems they ran out of points and tried to just wrap the whole thing up. It’s a shame since despite some flaws, the whole thing was flirting with greatness up until then. Oh, well. At least we’re getting a new Cronenberg next year.
Posted on November 30, 1998 in Reviews by Ron Wells
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