CUB (Govaerts, 2014) is about a Belgian Cub Scout pack that goes on a camping trip just over the French border, unsurprisingly, things don’t go to well for the Cub Scouts in this horror, but how does the film fare?
Sam (Maurice Luyten) is a 12-year-old Cub, shunned by his fellow Cub Scouts and somewhat mistreated by his ill-equipped Cub Scout leaders: Chris (Titus de Voodgt); Pete (Stef Aerts); and Jasmign (Evelien Bosmans). The Cub Scouts make their way to their expedition only to find the field they were supposed to be staying in is occupied by shellsuit wearing, French louts. So Chris and Pete decide to drive further down the road, finding refuge in a scenic and isolated forest retreat where trouble ensues.
The Scout leaders – Chris and Pete – have filled their charges’ heads with mythical tales about the ‘Kai’ – a werewolf myth. But when a young boy wearing a mask starts stalking the campsite, things take an unsurprisingly nasty turn. However, this ‘creature’ is no myth, as with The Hills Have Eyes (Craven, 1977), the villains here are ‘mountain folk’; people who worked in a now abandoned factory, which was once the core of this rural area.
In terms of narrative, this is nothing new and while the film is very enjoyable its plot does have a few problems. First, Sam has suffered an unspoken psychological trauma and it’s alluded to through the use of a photo – a photo in which a man holds a gun up alongside a woman and child. Noticeably the child’s face – presumably Sam’s – has been scratched off; Sam’s trauma (in truth), acts as a signifier, it’s a narrative tool alluding to a twist, however, in its execution it’s somewhat fumbled.
Then there’s the ‘mountain folk’, comprised of the ‘Kai’ – a young boy of similar age to Sam, who wears a mask and stalks the campsite – and a man referred to as ‘the poacher’ – although not in the film itself – who appears to do the majority of the killing (including the rigging of some inspiring booby traps). However, the relationship here is sorely underdeveloped, we’re left to infer that they’re father and son. There’s almost too much mystery; the film would work better with some exposition concerning their origins.
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However, despite these niggles, Govaerts has created a rather fun romp through horror conventions, paying homage to horror maestros, while frequently tearing up the ‘rule book’. CUB isn’t without its problems but it’s very easy to overlook them when you’re having this much fun. Govaerts has proved himself an assured European horror director with this confident debut.
CUB is part of the BFI London Film Festival and it is being screened to the public on Tuesday, October 14 and Thursday, October 16. Visit the website for more information.