Monday, August 17, 2015

Scout and About: "Cub" (2015)

This brutally violent piece of suspense from Europe should shock a jaded American audience by going into a couple of taboo subjects that we normally do not see.

Sam (an excellent Maurice Luijten) is a troubled pre-teen who gets picked on by his scout troop- including scout leader Peter (Stef Aerts). The troop head into the woods to camp, led by nice guy Kris (Titus De Voogt) and cute camp cook Jasmijn (Evelien Bosmans). The scout leader is a little tyrant, he even has a fat kid as his muscle, so Sam breaks from the others and wanders around in the woods. The scout masters told the campers a story about a feral werewolf boy named Kai who lives in the woods, just to keep the little darlings safe in their tents, but no one expected a real life homicidal kid (Gil Eeckelaert) to be occupying the same stretch of woods.

After encountering a couple of French assholes (apparently, they're not so loved in the EU, either?), and a theft of some of their property, the camp slowly descends into chaos. Sam almost befriends Kai, but he doesn't have a very calming effect on the boy who lives in a giant nest and wears a one-horned mask made of tree bark. Thanks to some well placed exposition, we find out that a lot of locals hanged themselves from the surrounding trees when a local factory shut down, and this might explain the presence of a dark adult figure who may or may not have a connection to Kai...don't get your lederhosen in a bunch, a lot of this comes out in the beginning of the story.

As with many films of it's ilk ("Wrong Turn," "Breakdown," "Joy Ride," the "The Hills Have Eyes" remakes), "Cub"'s payoff doesn't equal the journey to get there. It did go in a few directions I wasn't expecting (if Sam and Kai had started bonding like young John Connor and the Terminator, I was prepared to throw the DVD in the trash). There are many hard-to-watch scenes involving violence to both an animal and the boys themselves that might turn the viewer off. Govaerts does an outstanding job with his widescreen direction, somehow making the woods open AND claustrophobic. The script, by Govaerts and Roel Mondelaers, jumps right in with both feet, although you will still be reminded of other stories while watching this- including the films above as well as 1980's slasher flicks and William Golding's novel "Lord of the Flies" (not "The Lord of the Rings" as erroneously mentioned on the DVD cover of the copy I have, as well as some other sources). The film is subtitled, but one of the executive producers is Richard Christian Matheson. Good luck having him try an American remake- we only murder horny teens in this country!

"Cub" (also known as "Welp") should satisfy some horror fans out there who want to see something different- just don't look too closely, or you might see something you've seen many times before. (* * * *) out of five stars.

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