Cub (Welp), the first feature length film from Belgian director Jonas Govaerts, borrows heavily from the well known tropes of slasher franchises of yore (Friday the 13th, The Burning) but much like last years It Follows manages to twist them just enough to defy the viewers expectations and provide some genuine surprises. The first few opening minutes are a perfect example; a scene that literally caused Robin and I to sit up and exclaim “Holy fuck!” in unison like we live in some sort of Looney Tunes universe.
The gist of the movie is that our hero (if anyone in the movie could truly wear that moniker), a young troubled boy by the name of Sam, goes out on a scouting expedition with his troupe into an area of wilderness with a history of unfortunate incidents. Almost immediately the troupe is beset by inauspicious encounters (what else would an encounter with chav’s in tracksuits be but inauspicious?) and warning signs that maybe they should turn around and forego the camping trip this year. Being scouts and idealistic followers of Baden Powell’s life lessons however, the troop tromp toward danger, essentially into enemy territory and set up camp oblivious to the danger that watches from the woods. Predictably, this is where things really start to get hairy as Sam reports seeing Kai, a thought to be imaginary feral child who transforms into a werewolf, in the woods that surround their camp. Children being as they are, they immediately jump on this as an admission of weakness and instead of investigating chalk it up to Sam being a “freak”. The scout leaders aren’t much better, either uncaring as to the welfare of Sam (referred to as one of the leaders “projects” at one point) or more interested in removing each others clothing as teenagers are wont to do.
Things start to ramp up in a hurry, as items are stolen, animals go missing and generally suspicious activity abounds. By the time the Scout leaders have even an inkling of belief in what Sam has been trying to tell them it is far to late. They sit directly in the middle of a trap, with the trapper just waiting for them to slip up so he can collect his prey. And slip up they do, in grand fashion. Featuring some very inventive trap kills, Cub will surely satisfy both those who love a movie that builds a tense atmosphere and delivers in the gore department. More than once i found myself wanting to rewind a scene so I could watch it play out again. I won’t go much into what happens on the third act as not to spoil it, but it really does leave the viewer with more questions than it answers. I can see why this film is divisive in that regard; not everyone like to be left theorizing come the end credits. Not myself however, as those are the kinds of things that make me fall in love with movies. If you can make me leave the theatre talking about possibilities your film raised, messaging with friends for days after theorizing what may have happened then you have grabbed me truly. While the ending may leave some with a bad taste in their mouth I still suggest everyone go and check Cub out. Even if you don’t feel satisfied with the conclusion, I think we can all agree we need yet one more reason to fear children.
PS: this film crosses some lines very boldly and without a second thought in regard to children and animals as victims in horror movies. It doesn’t shy away perpetuating violence against them (just like real life. Shocker!) and for that I applaud it. I’m sure (in fact I HOPE!) there are those out there who feel the polar opposite about this but fuck them and their PC beliefs; they are weak willed and should stick to multiplex James Wan “horror” trash where a yowling cat is considered terrifying.