[review by JA Kerswell]
|A group of scouts are heading into the deep, dark woods - where they are in for a big surprise in CUB.|
If Hans Christian Andersen had directed a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie it might have looked a little like CUB. A unique melding of 80s slasher tropes and the type of folklore where nothing good ever lurks in a moonlit forest. A troop of Boy Scouts and their leaders set up camp in the wrong place. They find that whispered tales of menace are only too true after they come under attack by a psycho and his diminutive apprentice. Whilst not entirely successful, this Belgian and Dutch co-production boasts good production values, an engaging cast and some eerie visuals.
Sam (Maurice Luijten) is a 12-year-old loner with a troubled past but he is excited to be going camping in France with his fellow scouts. The troop is led by an initially jovial pair, Peter (Stef Aerts) and Kris (Titus De Voogdt), who tease them that a figure named Kai lurks in the forest and turns into a werewolf at night. They also say that there has been a rash of disappearances recently and ask the boys if they really want to go camping or do they want to chicken out? Sensing this is all ballyhoo, the boys enthusiastically vote to go. On the way to the campsite, they pick up the young female cook Jasmijn (Evelien Bosmans).
The group cannot pitch tents where they intended after a couple of local hoodlums threaten them, so they drive deeper into the woods and find a clearing. Whilst the other boys largely forget about the tall tales, Sam is unable to shake them and struggles to bond with the others. When he sees a boy about his own age covered in mud and wearing a strange wooden mask, he is sure he has seen Kai and rushes to tell the group. However, he is not believed and some of the other boys, and Peter, become irritated by what they presume is just him crying wolf. When items go missing from the camp Sam is blamed. He is determined to find out where Kai lives, but soon discovers that someone else also lives in the woods who is just as - if not more - dangerous …
|CUB boasts at least one unique looking killer in this 80s slasher throwback mixed with a fairy tale ambiance.|
CUB is a rare horror film that puts children in actual danger - and it is blessed by a great performance by Luijten as Sam. His character is both repulsed and intrigued by the actions of Kai - and a friendship of sorts blossoms between them for a while. The film inhabits a world that looks like reality but also has a fairy tale sense of unreality about it. Below the woods is a warren made from an abandoned factory and rusting cars - whose owners rot on a bus buried under the mulch. The adult killer has even set up an alarm system with triggers across the forest that announce intruders. He also has bizarre traps that wouldn’t be amiss outside the board game Mousetrap - including a particularly outlandish flying wasp’s nest attached to an arrow.
A potential problem with CUB is that it doesn’t pick a consistent tone and stick to it. The film starts light-heartedly with some comedic flourishes but gets altogether darker as it progresses. This jars somewhat with the killer’s almost pantomime lair and other whimsical touches. The viewer is also left to make up their own mind as to what motive, if any, the killer has - and where his apprentice has come from and what drives them to kill?
It caused some controversy on its release. The Flemish Boys Scouts movement urged parents not to take their children to see it - especially after the film got a surprise ‘all ages’ rating.
CUB is a strange, whimsical - and sometimes brutal - spin on slasher lore. And there isn't anything else quite like it.
female: 1 / male: 7
1) Male killed (off screen)
2) Male illed with knife (dream sequence)
3) Male killed with arrow driven through wasp nest
4) Male stabbed in the eye with knife
5) Male run over with truck
6) Male crushed with tree trunk
7) Male stabbed to death
8) Female impaled on spikes and stabbed to death
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