The Forest Slasher Returns with Cub (2014) + Memories of a Former Cub Scout

September 22, 2015 | By

Saying goodbye to an old friend…


When I was a kid, I joined the cub scouts with my best friend, and we attended weekly Thursday meetings, and the summer highlights supposedly included this activity called “camping” – a much cherished activity where urban kids travel by bus to a remote outpost reasonably far from home, live in tents or log cabins, and within a week, are devoured by insects.

I believe my record was 40 bites, but I’m a bug magnet, possessed with a power to attract skin-piercing / flesh-sawing insects from afar because either I have a high iron content (whatever the hell that means), or they see through the cub scout cap, tie, merit badged shirt (I could speak 3 languages, and defend the troupe against lost & grumpy Germans or parachuting French cannibals), shorts, and socks, and see breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a junk food snack all in one package.

Cub Scouts was mostly fun, but there were elements and changes that ultimately had me deciding to step away from the greenish uniforms and enjoy more dynamic fun that could be had courtesy of the idiot box (TV). For one, a show I liked was on Thursdays, and when there weren’t further group meets, I discovered The Fantastic Journey (1977) had been cancelled, making me feel more bereft than missing out on a merit badge.

Jonas Govaerts’ debut feature Cub / Welp (Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada) may be a forest slasher and an overt homage to things John Carpenterinian, but it gets a number of things right from the perspective of a quiet kid surrounded by loud kids on a cub scout trip to the forest.

My nature hikes were fun (well, there was that eerie moment I found a baby frog severed in two, and still very much alive), learning to build lean-tos and other survival accoutrements were interesting, but like the film depicts, Scout leaders were part of a class system – the elite – and most I remember were assholes.

Just as the leaders in Cub take away all phones, gizmos, and pocket knives, we had to surrender 1970s equivalents, which included bug repellent, because apparently a can of Deep Woods Off! interfered with the roughing it experience. I called bullshit, and was proven correct when they returned our cans before boarding the bus home, and mine was almost empty. Motherfuckers.

One scout was especially surly, and in addition to smoking cigarettes, his sublime coolness included igniting a stick match using his upper teeth (they were big and wide like canoe paddles). We had tough kids, weak kids, and average kids on the big outings, plus one guy who was dubbed something like ‘The Slob” because he wore the same stained T-shirt upon which he had spilled food and other human goo.

I brought comics to bring a sense of urban comfort to the cabin sleeps, and was relieved when it was time to go home because it meant I could ride my bike again and no longer be a minute steak to forest mosquitoes.

My last camping trip as a cub scout included my friend, his dad as cook / honorary scout master, and the former’s cousin who, like scouts, was a asshole. Pompous, a faux know-it-all, and a bit of a goon, he made the trip less than stellar, and I was less than impressed with the food that included sandwiches using baloney, processed cheese and white bread, baked bean soup, and other camp fodder that severely contrasted with the German & Indian food at home.

(I remember when I mentioned the food to my mom when she picked me up, I heard a loud “Hey! What do you mean the food was boring? I cooked some of that!” coming from my friend’s dad. Yeah, I felt bad – we were neighbours, after all – but it had to be said: baloney ain’t no salami).

We didn’t sing songs on trips nor at meetings, but I remember some incantation that was probably the equivalent of Best Buy staff doing their Hip-Hip-Hurrah routine at the end of the day, saluting ourselves and the leader who was the Knower of All Things (except asshole scouts who stole things from 9 year old kids).

Most of what’s in Cub rings true, especially the sense of displacement, where you’re far from home, in the wild woods with goofball friends and acquaintances trying to scare you when they’re not chattering away.

No one was a sadist, but like the character of Kris (aka Baloo), if all the securities you’ve established in the wild are gone, your closest companion’s been slaughtered, and there’s a weird kid you think might be responsible for all the dilemmas, well, you might crack.

Govaerts’ film isn’t perfect, but it’s a compact B-movie that’s sleek and brisk, with great atmosphere and a fun synth score by Steve Moore, whose work I reviewed for an upcoming issue of Rue Morgue magazine. (On vinyl, as played through a tube amp, I’m sure Moore’s score would sound divine.)

Being a forest slasher, Cub is also part of that small sub-genre I profiled in a chapter for [Warning: blatant plug approaching] the book The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul, edited by André Loiselle and Gina Freitag, and slated for publication October 28th by the University of Toronto Press.

My piece focuses on the CanCon classic Rituals / aka The Creeper (1977), which I regard as the template for the a genre that follows some key elements of the suburban slasher, but gives it all a fresh spin by tormenting urban victims in wild country.

It’s a fascinating genre that can work without heavy gore, but there has to be a little grievous trauma to spice things up.

As for my own regard for cub scouts, I guess I’ve some nostalgia, because the tiny uniform is still neatly packed away in storage. I mean, my parents paid for it, so why toss it, especially when it’s got merit badges?

Coming next: a quick blog on attending a TIFF screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) at Roy Thompson Hall this past Sunday, with Bernard Herrmann’s exquisite score performed live by the TSO.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Tags: , , , , ,


Comments are closed.