Cub (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 22, 2021

CUB is available on Blu-ray now; order it HERE!

PLOT: Troubled 12-year old Sam joins his Cub Scout pack for a summer in the isolated Belgian woods. When his camp leaders tell an ominous spook story about a monster lurking deep in the foliage, an all too real manifestation takes hold.

REVIEW: Culminating a decade-long boot-camp in the craft of television and short form cinema, Belgian filmmaker Jonas Govaerts finally makes his feature debut with CUB, a ferociously feral if somewhat foreseen psychological slasher joint. Admittedly, I had nary a hint of what CUB was about prior to popping in an obnoxiously watered-marked online screener, but it really didn't matter. Co-written with Govaerts with Roel Mondelaers, CUB struck me well with its brisk pacing, beautifully shot outdoors atmosphere and its unremittingly cruel carnage. Sure, most knowledgeable horror heads will likely detect the attempted sly misdirect the film is centered on, but I think Govaerts does a nice job of tipping his hand without fully showing his cards until the final showdown. Scouts honor Jack, CUB's a pretty worthy trooper!

Commencement shows about a dozen or so young cub scouts readying for camp deep in the Belgian woods. Among them is Sam (Maurice Luijten), an inwardly tormented 12 year old who seems rather nonplussed about spending the summer outdoors with a passel of rowdy peers and their unruly superiors. Kris (Titus De Voogdt) and Peter (Stef Aerts) play the two scout leaders, with the only other staff member being a sexy blonde cook named Jasmijn (Evelien Bosmans). As the trio round up the cubs for their trek into the forest, they drolly plant a spook story in the impressionable young minds. That is, in pure folkloric terms, there is said to be a half-boy-half-werewolf monster named Kai that feasts upon any moving thing that dare encroach on its turf. The boys laugh it off at first, save for Sam, who starts to notice an eerie presence in the woods that jives with the description of Kai. Quandary becomes, is Sam imagining all this? Is he going mad? Or is he really fin to hunt the hunter?

Ill-fated side-characters wander through, including an hilariously oversized local copper cruising a dinky bicycle and a pair of Flemish louts who ride go-karts and pick fights with Kris and Peter. I don't want to spoil too much here, but man, there's a really refreshing level of violence in CUB that accounted for a large part of my enjoyment. Arrows, knives, beehives, wooden spikes, devilish DYI booby-traps and even a putrid, Argento-like muck-pit at the bottom of an old wishing well are featured in quite unique sequences for a movie of this size and stature. Suffice it to say, people start ruthlessly losing life. Hell, there's even a bizarre subterranean labyrinth that the climax of the film takes place in, both reinforcing the slick psychological and severe slasher subtexts at once. It's here where I decided that, despite pretty much knowing where the resolution was headed, the waters became muddied enough to cover the path and keep me guessing in a way I really found amusing. When my theory was both validated and subverted in the bleak final frames of the film, pleasant semi-surprise was felt.

Not that the film is faultless, however. Firstly, there aren't too many likeable characters here to speak of, including our titular 12-year old cub. Then again, that might make sense given the conclusion. Sam is aloof, withdrawn, and wracked with torment from both his past and potentially hazardous future. Kris and Peter are two inept clowns of sorts who treat the cubs, Sam included, like they were power-starved drill sergeants. Even the sexy blonde gal Jasmijn's presence is too scant to really give a damn. And speaking of sparse, that too is a macro downfall for the entire picture. At less than 80 minutes, the film feels too slight, too threadbare. By the time the action finally hits its groove, there's only about 15 minutes or so remaining. It's not often I think a movie can benefit from a longer runtime, but since I dug the gorgeously shot day and nighttime sequences out in the woods (by DP Nicolas Karakatsanis of THE LOFT and BULLHEAD fame), the memorable set-pieces and the deliciously inventive violence the story unfolded, I could have happily watched another 10-15 minutes had the script been more fully developed.

On the whole though, I'd certainly urge you to check out CUB when it rounds your corner. Sure you might see the psychological angle coming, then disappear, only to perhaps reappear. But trust…there's enough of a menacing ambience, lush setting, quick tempo, and best of all, a severe amount of sadistic savagery to keep most horror thirsts whetted. Couple that with the fact this marks Jonas Govaerts first feature, and it's all the more impressive. Really, CUB is a is a fierce but fun summertime horror import. Bear down and cop it!

Cub (Movie Review)



Source: AITH

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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.