Directed by Jonas Govaerts
Many still believe that the French horror phenomenon is responsible for the most twisted and vicious genre films in the past decade, although Belgium is surely giving France a run for its money with the advent of a new wave of depraved horror films.
First-time director Jonas Govaerts only supports this fact as his first feature, Cub, puts a brutal new spin on standard camp horror fare.
After the film’s creepy and at first misleading prologue, viewers are introduced to Sam (Luijten), an introverted twelve-year-old on the way to a camping trip with his fellow cub scouts and three teenage camp counselors. When a mishap with two bullies reroutes the group further into the woods, the counselors try scaring the boy scouts with a campfire tale about Kai, a werewolf rumoured to be stalking its prey in those very woods.
When the impressionable Sam runs into a savage young boy wearing a mask, he is convinced he has found the real Kai and is promptly ridiculed for his theory. Although the boy is not a mythical beast, the threat of something sinister brewing in the air is very much real as the group is being stalked by a flesh and blood skilled and patient killer, and Sam quickly realizes that the legend of Kai is the least of his worries.
One of the things that makes Cub stand out from the archetypal “slasher in the woods” movie is its usage of its supporting characters. Like a majority of slashers, the supporting characters exist simply to pad the numbers. However, what makes them unique from regular slashers is that besides one villainous character, none of them are particularly unlikable. For instance, in Cub, not all of the camp counselors are horny wing bats, and the one female counselor who is, is actually the film’s most empathetic character. By making the minor characters less detestable, it makes the nihilistic events to follow that much more shocking to watch, and be warned: This is not a film for the easily offended.
Govaerts also succeeds in displaying the most inventive set-pieces in a camp horror film since Severance. The fatal booby traps that the members of the group fall victim to one-by-one are particularly well thought-out and will invoke cheers from the audience.
On the downside, Cub loses its momentum and falls apart in its final act, when it inexplicably turns into a generic and over-the-top slasher and ends with mediocre results. This wouldn’t be such a disappointment if the acts that preceded the finale weren’t full of enjoyable, yet sadistic moments.
Cub may end on a weak note; however, director Jonas Govaerts still manages to take a generic plot and deliver a solid horror experience by taking his viewers on a dark and unexpected ride through the woods.