Director – Jonas Govaerts
Cast – Gill Eeckelaert, Maurice Luijten, Stef Aerts, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt, Jan Hammenecker, Noa Tambwe Kabati, Ricko Otto, Louis Lemmens, Thomas De Smet, Pieter De Brabandere, Jessie Tweepenninckx, Isah De Zutter, Hauke Geirnaert, Ebe Meynckens
Release Year – 2015
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I’ve seen my fair share of French horror, but not so much Belgian horror, so I had to give this one a shot. From first-time auteur Jonas Govaerts, Cub centers on an element I highly enjoy – camping, and offers another thing I can relate to – Boy Scouts. Expertly shot in engaging locations, this is a visual feature that also excels in giving us some of the best horror 2015 had to offer. There are a few qualms with the story, but overall, Cub excels at what matters most in the genre.
The story follows Sam, a 12 year old outcast who joins his fellow cub scouts and their teenage scout leaders on a weekend camping trip. Rumor has it the woods are inhabited by a deadly werewolf whom the locals have blamed for mysterious disappearances. The forward-thinking Sam, certain that something evil indeed resides within the woods, stumbles across a secret that nobody will believe…until it is too late.
Cub wastes little time sucking you in, with an attention-grabbing opening sequence followed by well-paced developments during the first act. The protagonists quickly arrive at the campsite, looking to have a good time despite hearing the local rumors of a werewolf hunting the woods. It is obvious that Sam is not your average young boy. He is intuitive, smart, and worst of all he is curious. Believing he has seen quick glimpses of a young boy donning a wooden mask, he begins sneaking out to pursue this interest. Doing so leaves him on negative terms with his troop, especially when things begin to go awry and only he is to blame for them. His protests about something deadly residing within the woods fall on deaf ears. As the incidents occurring around the camp grow in severity, so does the conflict Sam must face. So what IS happening around the woods? People, locals and eventually campers, are being killed in brutal fashion via some intricate methods that I found highly entertaining.
The horror in this film is top notch and the reason why it achieves a positive 7-rating despite some story flaws occurring late in the film. To start, the kills are awesome. I hate to compare the kills here to those seen in the Saw movies, but that is the easiest comparison for me to make. They aren’t as torturous, but they are just as brutal and leave the victim suffering a grueling death. There are multiple elements to the horror here as well. The local rumors about a werewolf will throw you off in comparison to what actually happens in the flick. On top of that, new developments are made regarding the source of the horror. Let’s just say there are multiple sources. I dug this tactic even though it did keep me a bit confused as to what the purpose of the horror was until the final act.
As far as the negatives of the film go, the final act is the only thing that holds it back. There are some unrealistic scenes that could possibly leave you shaking your head. Basically, we see some superhuman abilities come from someone who is an average joe in every way. This is not something I normally nit-pick, but the way it is executed in the film is what threw me off. We are supposed to take it seriously and not as a overdone cliché, which would have totally justified it.
The direction from Govaerts is fantastic and ultimately makes up for the film’s one negative. To start, I really loved the sets and locations used. As a fan of venturing into the wilderness I constantly put myself into the situations I was watching. The forest is captivating and he includes some additional elements (a wicker treehouse) that only added more depth to a superb location. Despite 90% of the film taking place in the wilderness the story and location “moves” very well. In fact, some scenes of the film don’t even take place above ground. The acting performances are solid, and come from actors with little, if any, film experience. Of course, where Govaerts really excels is with the horror. The kills are executed in full-frontal fashion and leave little to the imagination. I was glad to see live-action effects used for nearly every kill sequence. Using practical effects, especially during the complex kill sequences, had a profound effect on my interest and only sucked me in more. There is a decent amount of gore here, but don’t expect this to be a gorehound piece despite the brutal kills.
Overall, Cub is a solid watch that I recommend to those looking for solid horror and enjoyable kills. It has a few small negatives that you should be able to look past thanks to good direction, resulting in a solid debut effort for Govaerts.