BR: Cub / Welp (2014)

September 22, 2015 | By

 

Cub2014_BRFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Good

Label:  Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada

Region: A

Released:  August 18, 2015

Genre:  Horror / Forest Slasher

Synopsis: A weekend camping trip becomes a lethal cat and mouse game for a cub scout troupe and mysterious feral figures living somewhere in a remote forest.

Special Features:  2 Deleted Scenes / 2007 Short Film: “Of Cats and Women” / Music Video: “One Hour” /Special Effects Reel / DVD Edition (NTSC Region 1).

 


 

Review:

Belgian Jonas Govaerts’ feature film debut is a sleek homage to the forest slasher sub-genre, as presented with the sounds and imagery of a John Carpenter production, and while the finale has its share of problems, as a mood piece Cub is a fairly satisfying work featuring a strong cast, and a provocative premise of whether a troubled child can resist feral urges when pushed to the limits self-preservation.

The basic story has Sam (Maurice Luijten) joining other cub scouts on a camping trip where it’s supposed to be a week / weekend of fun activities designed to build friendships, foster a respect for nature, and help less socially able campers conquer a few barriers and make some personal breakthroughs.

Like a classic forest slasher – a sub-genre quite distinct from the usual suburban-set slasher – urban characters become lost, fall victim to infighting, and are ultimately picked off by more feral human forces until it’s pretty much a battle between good and evil, with good having to apply evil measures to vanquish a brutal villain.

Govaerts quickly reveals Sam as an outcast, an odd boy who harbors both unique tools and skills (besides having a knife, he knows how to defend himself better than the rest), and a respect for the feral kid that visits and toys with the troupe’s camp site and belongings until things become more lethal. Among the campers are bullies, a sympathetic scout leader, a sexual tryst between two flirtatious scouts, and a murder that starkly fractures the troupe and seeds self-destructive behaviour, but it’s the peculiar bond between Sam and the wild child that remains a compelling mystery for the film’s first half.

While the feral child is initially benign (albeit being a drooling, masked creep), an adult figure is behind the abduction and killing of strays, but as the latter begins to assert himself in the plot, things get a little clunky, veering to the impossible, and finally seeding a twist ending that doesn’t make sense based on the stunted revelations of Sam’s mysterious background. There’s an allusion (and brief discussion among his scout leaders) to Sam having a deeply troubled family past – it’s inferred he’s perhaps committed some brutal, cruel acts, and is a latent serial killer – but it’s never clarified.

Early in the film, as the troupe drive through what resembles an abandoned town formerly known for building transit buses and subway cars, there’s an evocation of Jonathan Harker journeying to Dracula’s castle, making his way through a sleepy town where inhabitants are too afraid to walk the streets, let alone illuminate the insides of their homes.

The kids’ original destination – an open field – is overtaken by bonehead locals, so they’re forced into the killer’s lair: a far off clearing that becomes inaccessible to any outside help due to assorted trip wires, felled trees, and strategic clutter that’s revealed to be part of an elaborate mechanical warning and defense system emanating from within the killer’s underground lair.

The complex warning system borders on the cartoon, as does the killer’s reason for hunting humans, all of which makes Govaerts’ twist absurd, regardless of whether the final shot infers an imminent moment of revenge or complicity. There’s also the issue of the opening kill scene which is either a clever hook, or blatant padding in a film whose narrative starts to lag and meander until the first actual killing.

The best way to approach Cub is like a graphic novel, presented with Carpenteresque sights (lens flares galore, gorgeous widescreen compositions) and sounds (Steve Moore’s synth score is frankly amazing, working like a series of workshop tools that contribute independent or collective sounds which pulse gyrate, and undulate to variations of energy currents).

Govaerts knows which of Carpenter’s stylistic elements to include, yet he adds his own striking visuals, and the occasional in-joke: a cellphone ring is Goblin’s Suspiria theme, and an immolation is shot and scored like a sequence from Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), with sharp editing and practical effects.

Anchor Bay’s very nice Blu-ray includes a music video and a short film, with the latter framed in a super-stretched widescreen ration (3:1?). In Of Cats & Women (2007), an obsessive jilted lover ultimately torments her old flame and his new girlfriend by snatching their white cat and committing an especially brutal act that’s depicted with a relentlessness akin to the fire extinguisher head-mashing in Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible (2002), and later echoed using a different subject in Cub.

Like Cub, though, Cats also suffers from a peculiar ending, although its abruptness is more severe. Additionally, the deleted material intended as Cub’s post-credit teaser (or perhaps as the film’s original opening) suggests Govaerts and co-writer Roel Mondelaers were never able to figure out Sam’s problems even in the scriptwriting stage: the only hint the omitted footage provides is that Sam had a portent of the trip being a potential life-changer, and that bringing something forbidden as a personal knife was absolutely necessary. His family is also seen as average and supportive, making the scene where the scout leaders debate whether Sam is some ticking time bomb rather  contrived, if not a wonky red herring left over from a prior script draft.

Govaerts’ film is a minor forest slasher entry that’s likely to get more attention for its slick production and directorial style than story, but its strong first half and Sam being a compelling character distinguishes Cub from conventional slashers that feature loud shocks and scenes of prolonged, gory torment.

 

 

© 2015 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography —  Film Review
 
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

Comments are closed.

banner ad
banner ad