(On DVD, February 2010) For years, I avoided this sequel to the imaginative low-budget Canadian SF film Cube on suspicions that it would be more of the same. I was half-right: While Cube 2: Hypercube manages to be, substantially, the same film as its predecessor (a group of people are trapped in a repeating cubic structure they come to deduce is a prison; some gruesome deaths; one of them flips out and starts killing other members of the group), it doesn’t look the same, has a few new tricks up its sleeve, and is even a bit more dramatically satisfying than the first film. Some of the first film’s best quirks have been kept: the nightmarish nature of the endlessly repeating environment is there, as is the high concept of making a film that feels much bigger than its eight actors and single set. White has replaced black as the cube’s base color and as the subtitle of the film suggests, the structure is quite a bit more complex. It’s also far heavier on purely science-fictional concepts, from variable time and gravity to dimensional extrusion to parallel reality collapse. Alas, those tricks are used more as arbitrary stingers than elements of a carefully put-together environment or plotline: A gifted SF prose writer could have built an intricate puzzle-box with those elements, but in Cube 2 they seem subservient to the whims of the plot. It gives an unfocused, unsatisfying aftertaste to the entire film, even as the film seems far more generous than its predecessors in providing a satisfying semi-closure. Still, it’s more intriguing than many other low-budget SF sequels, and it’s relatively successful in reaching its own objectives. The DVD contains an instructive audio commentary track, as well as a lengthy making-of documentary that focuses almost exclusively on the special effects –which may tell you something about the nature of the film. There’s a profound irony in that the film’s CGI is used for both unconvincing traps and flawless set extension (some shots of the cube are virtual, and indistinguishable from the physical set). But all in all, Cube 2: Hypercube is an unassuming and surprisingly decent film that I should have seen much earlier.