The Japanese remake of Vincenzo Natali‘s sci-fi cult classic Cube, directed by Yasuhiko Shimizu (“Pension: Love Is Pink”), is now streaming on the Bloody Disgusting-powered SCREAMBOX.
The brutal sci-fi horror classic by Vincenzo Natali was so successful that it spawned Cube²: Hypercube (2002) and Cube Zero (2004). Natali (Splice, In the Tall Grass, NBC’s “Hannibal”) stayed on as a creative advisor for the Japanese remake, with Kôji Tokuo writing the adapted screenplay.
Bloody Disgusting spoke with Natali for the remake’s release on SCREAMBOX. The filmmaker revealed how he influenced the remake, including its director Yasuhiko Shimizu, and teased the trap he designed in the reimagining. The filmmaker reflects on his own film in the process.
Natali tells us how he got involved with the remake and why it appealed to him.
“I personally knew the producers who made it happen, who are Japanese, who I like very, very much, and wanted to support,” he shares. “And then I was excited by the idea of a Japanese remake, much more than an American remake, which has also been, I guess, batting around somebody’s development slate for a while. The American one, I was always fearful that was going to get the edges rounded off of it, and it’ll just be more of the same.
“But I felt with a Japanese one, it’s going to go through that cultural filter, and even if they tried to make it the same, it would never be the same. Combined with the fact that I think that Cube has a bit of Japanese in its DNA, I was even aware of that while we were making it. So I also felt they would understand and appreciate it for all the right reasons.“
When asked about the original film’s Japanese DNA, Natali elaborates, “When we were shooting Cube, we would joke that different cubes have different themes. There was one Cube that I called the Ozu Cube because I shot it like an [Yasujirō] Ozu movie with everyone seated on the ground. I mean, I’ve always admired Akira Kurosawa, of course. There is something again because it’s so archetypal. Those movies, the Kurosawa films in particular, are utterly timeless because they feel like they’re dealing with themes that will never die. They’re shot in such a dynamic but classical way; they don’t age at all.
“I don’t know how conscious I was at that, but I think I understood when I was making Cube that this is a similar kind of thing. As I say, it exists outside of time. I mean, if I were to go back again, I would remove more cultural references because I think that’s part of its strength, is it’s almost a myth, except that it’s in the science fictional context.”
Once the Japanese remake of Cube was officially set in motion, Natali gave the filmmakers the creative freedom to make it their own.
He explains, “I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, to be honest. I must admit I was a big part of choosing who directed it, Yasuhiko Shimuzu-san, who I really liked. He had made a very cool movie called Vice that I recommend to anybody that can get their hands on it. He completely did what I thought he would do. He’s a very gifted filmmaker, a very deep thinker, highly aesthetic, poetic filmmaker. I commented on the script a little bit, but I wanted the film to be its own movie.
“I like the remakes that are different than the originals. I don’t want to see the same thing, just with the gloss of whatever the latest digital effects are. I want to see something that is fundamentally in its DNA shifted into something else that is more contemporary and specific to this moment, which is what they did, and very specific to Japan and the generation gap that is exploding in that country right now. That seems to me what that film is really about, which has nothing to do with our first film.”
Did he offer any advice to the filmmakers of the remake?
“I think maybe if I gave any advice to Shimuzu-san, it was, ‘Make sure you focus on the humans,’” Natali answers. “I don’t know, I may be inventing that memory, but I think I said that. I mean, one of the inspirations for me for Cube was the Alfred Hitchcock film Lifeboat, because you couldn’t be in a more confined space. Yet he made it cinematic, and then he made it engaging because the characters, I think it’s written by John Steinbeck, the characters are intensely engaging, and they transform. They appear to be one thing at the beginning of the film, and then they reveal themselves to be something else very different as it goes along. I think that is what you are in a great way forced to do when you are in this confined environment with a limited number of characters. The Japanese remake has taken that lesson to heart and made it a tremendously humanistic story, and probably much more compassionate than my film, which is somewhat surprising but lovely.”
Natali continues, “I can’t remember if I said this to Shimuzu-san, but I think I said, ‘Don’t go in the Cube, don’t do it. It’s a horrible place to shoot a movie.’ I don’t know if I actually said that out loud, but no, I wanted to support them and do that by being absent. The only specific thing I did, which was a fun, jokey thing, was I did design one of the traps; but I was more of a cheerleader, really.”
As for which trap, Natali offers one simple tease: “The last one.”
If you’ve seen it, you know it’s a creative showstopper. If you haven’t? The brand new remake of Cube is now available to stream only on SCREAMBOX.