Cub (2014) Film Review from the 58th Annual BFI London Film Festival, a movie co–written and directed by Jonas Govaerts, starring Stef Aerts, Maurice Luijten , Titus De Voogdt, Gill Eeckelaert, Jan Hammenecker, Evelien Bosmans, and Ricko Otto.
A troop of cub scouts, along with their chaperons, make a strange and life-changing discovery when they take a camping trip deep into the forest. This film, the first feature by Belgian director Jonas Govaerts, uses an interesting story and breath-taking scenery to create a very scary and believable world.
Our lead character, the titular ‘Cub’, is Sam (Maurice Luijten), a young boy with an active imagination and limited social skills. As an outcast, Sam represents the everyman, the person the audience sees themselves in, a role he performs admirably. Young Sam is the one who discovers ‘the boy.’
We first hear about the feral boy, half boy / half werewolf, quite early on in the film. He’s meant to be a scary story told by the camp councillors, to give the young ones they’re charged with a gentle fright. However, it turns out the story may actually be loosely based on reality.
The first half of the film plays out brilliantly. There exists a perfect marriage between humour and intrigue. The score blends in beautifully with the film, slowly creeping up into the audience’s ear and effectively acting as an extra scare mechanism. The cinematography is sometimes gorgeous and often inventive. The forest itself, where most of the film was shot, has the privilege of being both frightening and strangely alluring.
As Cub progresses, it begins to transform into more of a gore film. Most of the initial build-up is affected and it leads to the film feeling uneven, almost like two separate people directed it. The first hour or so is spent introducing characters, adding detail to each individuals personality, and giving the audience subtle clues on what to expect for the remainder of the film. The film leaves a large number of questions unanswered (e.g. the backstory, the forest mysteries), which was more than a little frustrating.
This film was very enjoyable and aspects of it reminded me of some of my favourite 80’s horror movies. It took me back to a simpler time when scare tactics didn’t need to involve massive amounts of blood. Fear is best exploited with brief moments of shock. Gore is completely different and lacks the charm and thought of a well written suspense/horror film.
The director’s change of direction has left me wondering what happened. The film starts off great and somewhere near the end he just decides to make this film like most of the current slasher flicks we get. It was an abrupt shift from what could and should have been a more suspenseful film.
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