Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

"There is no safety net for characters here."

The list of original horror movie premises must be getting frighteningly short now. Belgian director Jonas Govaerts and writer Roel Mondelaers aren’t exactly pushing the boat out by setting their grizzly film in the woods, but shifting the usual cast of characters from inept campers to a troop of competent, if young, Pathfinder Scouts makes for an effective switch up. The gang of young teens are led by the slightly older Baloo and Akela, who whip their young charges into a heightened state of tension with stories of Kai, a young werewolf who lives in the forests and feasts on careless victims. The twist is that Kai is very much real, although his motives and actions are less clear cut than those of a berserk killer. He’s discovered by Sam, the scout troop’s troubled and undesired member, who daydreams his way into all sorts of trouble.

Sam’s encounters with the mysterious woodland boy carry a primal tension to them, as the two outcasts feel each other out. The eerie Giallo-esque music that accompanies these sequences hints at a fated bond between the two, and there’s a frisson of uneasiness when they share screen time together. Kai isn’t the only thing that goes bump in the night however, and the nods to Giallo films don’t end with just the musical cues, as various characters find themselves cut down at the hands of a mysterious shadowy figure and a network of brutal traps.

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To call the deaths gory would be somewhat of an understatement, as Govaerts and Mondelaers go out of their way to off their cast in uncomfortably violent ways. The juxtaposition between the strict and rigorous treatment of the Scout Troop by the egotistical Baloo and the truly uncompromising punishments meted out by the mysterious assailant are gleefully played up.

As the torture porn films of the early 2000s desensitised audiences efficiently, it’s interesting to see that horror directors are still finding ways to push the boundaries of decency. If Cub didn’t have such a strong core with its link between Sam and Kai, then it could easily feel pointlessly egregious at times. There is no safety net for characters here, and the fact that the camp is made up of children doesn’t see them protected by the usually merciful hand of the writer.

If you’re after shock, shlock, and a film with a very dark and feral heart, then this Belgian slasher will definitely fill that trashy bill. Its bleak tone is hard to stomach at times, and its uneasy central relationship ends up failing to fulfill its promise of a more nuanced journey through the woods, but that doesn’t stop it from being entertainingly violent and slickly produced.

Reviewed on: 29 Jul 2015
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A young boy heads to scout camp, certain he will encounter a monster - and he's right.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2

Director: Jonas Govaerts

Writer: Jonas Govaerts, Roel Mondelaers

Starring: Maurice Luijten, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt, Stef Aerts, Jan Hammenecker, Gill Eeckelaert

Year: 2014

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Belgium


London 2014

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