CUBE (1997)


Cube is a SciFi horror film about a group of ‘subjects’ who awaken in a room with anterograde amnesia as to how (or why) they got there. The characters discover that their new prison cell is one of 17,576 rooms that form a government-sanctioned cube with booby-traps that impede their search for an exit. The strangers must overcome significant trust issues and work together to solve the puzzle of the cube to gain their salvation.


The original group of 4 characters finds Kazan, an occupant of the cube who is stricken with an adult autistic disorder, likely Asperger’s syndrome. Two psychiatric comorbidities affecting people with Asperger’s syndrome include Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Cube serves to review these 2 disorders through analysis of its 2 main characters. The group travels silently through a room with a sound-activated trap. After Kazan makes a sound and nearly causes Quentin’s death, Quentin threaten’s Kazan. This interaction moves the narrative forward, as these 2 characters symbolize the yin-yang of the group’s efforts to escape.

Affecting 1 in 68 children (CDC, 2014), individuals with an autism spectrum disorder have high levels of psychiatric comorbidity including SAD. The film serves as a metaphorical platform to discuss the treatments for SAD including group therapy, flooding (in vivo exposure therapy), and novel psychopharmacological therapies such as 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA). MDMA (ecstasy) produces effects characteristic of psychedelics (hallucinogens) and amphetamines. Renewed research interest in MDMA and anxiety builds on earlier studies of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin in treating autistic minors (misdiagnosed as having childhood schizophrenia). The drug’s hallucinogenic effect may also explain Kazan’s subjective reality of being imprisoned in the cubic colossus.

Another comorbidity of Asperger’s syndrome is PTSD. This illness is likely depicted by Quentin, a police officer. NMDA inhibits the activity of the left amygdala (lessens the fear response) while increasing the activity in the prefrontal cortex (Mithoefer, 2011) thus dampening the conditioned fear response. [Spoiler Alert] Kazan and Quentin are the last men standing, with the former leaving through the hatch into the bright light, a metaphor for a breakthrough in psychotherapy.

Last week’s movie: 30 Days of Night (2007)
Next week’s movie: A Perfect Getaway (2009)

I CAN SEE YOU (2008)


Somehow the United States of Horror Films map earmarked Carnival of the Dead for this week’s
destination movie. Unfortunately, efforts at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to find the film were unsuccessful. Alternatively, we arbitrarily chose I Can See You as the film to represent the First State. The 2008 horror film depicts a camping trip of Ben Richards, Doug Quaid, John Kimble, and Sonia Roja; advertising workers who are seeking inspiration for an ad campaign. When a camper mysteriously disappears, reality testing breaks down, and everyone’s safety is put in imminent jeopardy.


On the way to the campsite, Kimble receives a phone call from Ivan, who invites the group to a barbecue. When they arrive, Richards sees Summer Day, a former crush, who Richards refers to as a hippie. As the two rekindle their relationship, the pictures Richards takes of the wilderness come out distorted and parallel his difficulty focusing his vision (accommodation). When he goes swimming in a stream with Summer, Richards removes his glasses, and has as much difficulty with his speech as with his sight. Summer leaves, but with his vision blurred, Richards doesn’t see where she goes. Having been the last one to talk with Summer, Quaid is sought by Richards and Kimble when they uncover his camera (and see pictures he took of Summer). They find him disoriented, and after Quaid runs off, Richards discovers his body at the bottom of a cliff. Richards then hallucinates when he see Hauser who tells him to take a second look at the cliff without his glasses (Richards then throws his glasses over the edge).

Summer’s background, the pervasive theme of having difficulty with accommodation, jumping from a cliff (believing he can fly?), and hallucinations all point to LSD intoxication as the source of the campers’ horror. Additionally, the plot may also incorporate Dimethoxybromoamphetamine (DOB) as an adulterant. Also known as brolamfetamine and bromo-DMA, DOB is a substituted amphetamine that has a different dose response curve than LSD. Specifically, DOB takes up to 6 hours to take full effect. Consequently, unsuspecting users, such as the campers, who believe they are taking LSD may re-dose after 3 hours (and accidentally overdose). Additionally, the amount of time it takes for the DOB effects to begin increases when used in conjunction with alcohol, which the campers drink throughout the movie.

Last week’s movie: Friday the 13th (1980)
Next week’s movie: The Blair Witch Project (1999)