August 13, 2015

Movie Review: Cub (Welp)

When I was a kid, I joined the Cub Scouts. It just seemed like the thing to do. I do not remember what led to me joining, but I do remember completing tasks for beads and pins and badges and things. I remember whittling a zood block into a car. I remember Den “parents” who did not seem all that involved, and I remember losing interest and never making it to the actual Boy Scouts. Oh yes, there was also the Tom Wat boxes filled with junk to sell (the equivalent of Girl Scout cookies), and that one camping trip that had cabins and someone got in trouble for showing us Friday the 13th, there was a cool bonfire, though. What is the point of all this? Well, I had a camping trip, but it was nothing like Cub.

I am not sure anyone wants to have an experience like the one in Cub, unless you are just watching the movie. If it is just the movie you want to watch, I think you are all right. Still, while this is far from a great film, and not quite as good as I was expecting, it is still worth spending some time with and being thankful that your camping experiences did not turn out like this. In the end, I would have liked to have seen and known more, but that is not the way it goes with the perspective they chose to go from, a perspective that works both for and against the film makers.

The film, originally called Welp (a title I prefer, regardless of language), hails from Belgium. Cub was directed by Jonas Govaerts, who co-wrote the film with Roel Mondelaers. It is the debut feature for both men and was partially funded through crowdfunding channels. It is clear they did not have a great amount of money to work with, but they did put something on the screen worth checking out.

Cub opens promisingly enough with a woman being pursued through the woods. She is frantically trying to get away from her mud-caked pursuer. She sees the lights of passing cars through the trees. She breaks free from the treeline to find the passing cars are... a lie! An elaborate gimmick to trick people. She turns and is grabbed by the throat by an unseen assailant. The credits roll and Cub begins.

The plot centers on Sam (Maurice Luijten). He is a troubled young boy, orphaned at a young age. It is thought that time in the Scouts would be good for him. Unfortunately, he is the odd man out, picked on by his peers, even ridiculed by his Scout leader. Well, as the trip begins, the group are told of a wild feral kid who lives in the woods and turns into a werewolf at night. It is just a story, something to keep the kids on edge at night, right? Sam knows more than any of them about the feral kid, Sam says his name is Kai. The trip could be his opportunity to head out into the woods and find him.

The thing about this camping trip and Sam's troubled life and lone exploring is that none of it goes the way it is planned. The leaders are bickering with each other, they have to use a different camp location, and they end up on the grounds of a closed factory where some of the former employees did not take well to their firing.

I do not want give too much away, but it should be pretty clear that the legend Sam calls Kai is real and he is out to cause some real mischief. The problem is that Kai is not alone. There is someone else in the woods and he does not take kindly to visitors. Yes, the whole thing starts off a bit slow, but it gets progressively crazier as people start to disappear and die. Then it goes completely off the rails as they get deeper into the final act.

Cub may be a let down in terms of what you allowed to know, but it is still a solid survival horror experience. The movie keeps Sam as the focus, and because of that, it limits what you are allowed to know. This is not necessarily bad as Sam is an interesting character, a character who seriously needs some help, yet since he does not get it, is determined to care for himself. Now, that limited focus hurts the movie when we learn more about those fake car lights, and the other various traps and such they run into. We never really learn much about the man behind them or his relationship to Kai. Yes, you can probably infer some things, but I feel there is a fascinating story behind there somewhere.

What it comes down to is Cub is a good movie that is similar, yet different, horror movie that will keep you a little off guard. Its story is well executed, well acted, and well shot. It is a movie that is familiar enough to have fun with and different enough to be intriguing. Leave some things to be desired? Sure, but we cannot be looking for perfection. On entertainment, this delivers.

The Blu-ray release from Artsploitation Films looks and sounds great. The film is in a ratio of 2.35:1 and has nice color depth and retains a good detail level even during the darker sequences (of which there are many). The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is nice and clear, and the electronic score just sounds great.

On the extras front:
  • Deleted scenes (6:47). There is a different introduction of Sam and his home life and one of the leaders picking up another of the group.
  • VFX Reel (3:03). A breakdown of how some of the shots were composited.
  • Short Film: Of Cats and Women (13:15). An early short from Jonas Govaerts.
  • Music Video: Deadsets “One Hour” (3:37). Music video directed by Jonas Govaerts.
  • Trailers. Cub, Bloody Knuckles, Der Samurai, The Treatment.


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