Fantastic Fest 2014 Review: Cub


Cub Scouts and Feral Danger Lurk in the Belgium release Cub

The idea behind Cub (Welp) is so simplistic it is a wonder why no one had made it before now. Put a group of cub scouts in the woods on a camping trip, set them up with a scary story, add a few booby traps and watch what happens.

This Belgium release from Jonas Govaerts, here making his feature-length debut, contains all the usual tropes we’ve come to expect in expedition excursions that run afoul. The playground dreamt up for the camping location, Castle Rock (perhaps a nod to Stephen King and Stand By Me?), is not unlike Crystal Lake, as in a place that will be identifiable to any horror movie aficionado once this horror title reaches the masses. The tropes may be unoriginal but Govaerts engages the audience from the get-go with its in media res introduction. Then, we flashback to the start of the camping trip and meet the den leaders and PCP (Primary Cub Protagonist), Sam (Maurice Luijten), who has a troubled history.

When the story of Kai, a feral boy that lurks in the woods, seems to be more fact than fiction, at least in the mind of Sam, it leads to an extremely horrific scouting adventure.

Children in horror films can be a risky proposition, especially if kids are central to the story. They also seem to be a rarity nowadays. In my youth it was not uncommon seeing child protagonists in a horror flick. Films like The Gate and The Lost Boys had children at the center, and not portrayed in a manner in which they were a vessel for demon possession. Most of the cub scouts are background characters save for Sam and a few others. The adult figures are the two den leaders and a female who is the camp cook.

However, den leader Peter (Stef Aerts) takes offense to Sam and his allegations to having seen the mysterious Kai, which was only a thing of make believe – a character of a spooky story and nothing more. And as the boy who cried wolf stands by his assertions, he must bare witness to the atrocities around him. With the body count mounting, which is staged to great effect by Govaerts and his production team (seriously, the elaborate traps would make The Goonies‘ Data jealous), the narrative intensifies as Sam reveals himself to be more than just a cub scout as his animal instincts take hold.

Cub is a horror movie that takes stock in its conventional approach before the tropes are expanded into new directions.

Sam’s backstory regarding his upbringing is sketchy, briefly explained with visual cues and exposition that he is currently with a foster family, yet in its own special way helps to define him and why he would be drawn to the threat of danger. Looked upon more as a charity case than actual Boy Scout in training Sam inevitably becomes the bridge between the group of kids and the mysterious threat. Once the bridge is made that is the time to hold on as the pacing stays tight and doesn’t let up until the last shot.

Cub‘s production has some clever visuals, including the serpentine reveal of what occurs when a booby trap is engaged, all of which are highlighted by Steve Moore’s John Carpenter-esque music score.

The combination of Govaerts’ direction with a story that doesn’t take its child subjects for granted, Cub is a camping tale that will make audiences believe that is okay to cry wolf every now and then. Scouts honor.

Director: Jonas Govaerts
Writer(s): Jonas Govaerts, Roel Mondelaers
Notable Cast: Maurice Luijten, Stef Aerts, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt

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