Ethan Lyon’s review published on Letterboxd:
Hooptober 7.0, pt.31- Hell is Other People
2/2- Extra Films (COMPLETE)
1st Andrzej Sekula
Cosmic horror is often associated with strange, goopy monsters that defy the rational concept of the world. This challenge causes those who encounter them to go mad as they face the overwhelming notion that their existence is tiny and fated to be wiped out. But what if that sense of futility, that sickening dread, could be evoked by science? By the idea that at the logical end of our mathematically secure world, there is something that seeks to tear everything else asunder. Cube 2: Hypercube attempts, and largely succeeds, in advancing this idea.
The original Cube, a film I have a great fondness for, postulates the location of the cube as something similar to an elaborate torture chamber, filled with strange traps that cause bodily harm to its unlucky victims. But the Hypercube is something far more sinister, a refinement of the cruelty at the heart of the concept. How can you get out of a place where the fixed concepts of time and space are irrevocably destabilised? You can't, and that is the seat of the cosmic horror- the hopelessness that overwhelms them, only it's one based on the cold calculations of mathematics, not the presence of a higher being. Our seven main characters gradually become dehumanised by the mysterious rooms they are transported to, now blinding white from the previous film's red. Private investigator Simon is the worst affected, gradually debased to cannibalism and insanity by what he sees as the sheer illogicality of the cube. Like the first film, the macho male figure who brutally assumes charge of the group is undone by the challenge to his own sense of self, one that destabilises his presence as an Alpha in the group.
The film is based on a very clear mathematical concept, that of the tesseract and the various slips in temporality that are caused by it. In many respects, it reminds me of Robert Heinlein's excellent short story 'And He Built a Crooked House', where a man creates a 4D house that suffers a slip into the ground, causing terrifying moments of temporal folding. Indeed, there is an image from the end of Hypercube that seems to be lifted directly from 'Crooked...', which makes me wonder whether the screenwriters read the story before working on the film. While I can't speak for the mathematical accuracy of the film (which I imagine is not considerable), I admire a film that attempts to grapple with complex notions of science and mathematics without pandering to an audience. Primer is another example of this, though Carruth's background as a mathematician and software developer perhaps makes the concepts better realised than with the more genre-heavy narrative of Hypercube.
Sekula captures something of the vertiginous quality the tesseract evokes in his use of dynamic camera angles, extreme closeups and elaborate tracking shots that are augmented with CGI. True, the CGI is sometimes quite ropey, especially the crystal blocks and rippling walls, but when used to stitch together shots that shouldn't be connected, it is so unsettling and distorting that you feel as overwhelmed as the characters. The performances and dialogue is roughly on the level of the original film, which basically means it's a lot of people shouting at each other while chewing up big monologues. Certain characters do grate on the nerves, especially the dementia-suffering mathematician, but in some respects that's to be expected when you are trapped in a hostile situation.
I've rabbited on a lot about this film, one that people really don't like on this site. I can see why it wouldn't appeal. It is cheaply made and does try to expand the universe of the original film, something that can be legitimately seen as sacrilegious. But to me, this is a fascinating and genuinely daring film that has perhaps been under appreciated. But that's just my opinion.