Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(Dutch with English subtitles)
Directed by: Jonas Govaerts
Written by: Jonas Govaerts & Roel Mondelaers
Starring: Maurice Luijten, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt, Stef Aerts, Jan Hammenecker & Gill Eeckelaert
Slasher films have their diehard fanatics and detractors. I’m somewhere in-between. I enjoy a number of slashers, but also find most of them to be the same thing over and over again (to frustrating effect). That being said, I don’t think we’ve received a really solid slasher since 2009’s FRIDAY THE 13TH remake, THE HILLS RUN RED, and CABIN IN THE WOODS. CUB is a Belgium throwback to 80’s slasher fare like FRIDAY THE 13TH, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, and THE BURNING. As such, it manages to hold certain positive qualities and similar problems resembling flaws in those films. CUB is a painstakingly crafted homage and winds up being slightly better than most of the cheap recent slasher competitors.
A group of cub scouts go into the woods for a camping trip. Sam is a shy, imaginative loner and the constant target for bullying from the scouts. When the camp leaders tell the preteens about the legend of Kai (a werewolf boy who supposedly lives near their campsite), Sam’s imagination kicks into high gear. Little does the scout pack know that they’ve actually stumbled onto the terrain of a demented killer and his feral son. When Sam comes across the son and believes him to the actual Kai, a bond forms between them. Meanwhile, “Kai’s” father begins picking off victims one-by-one through insanely convoluted booby traps. Can Sam survive the bloody carnage in the woods? Will many fall victim to Kai and his father? Let me answer that second question with another question: It wouldn’t be much of a slasher movie without much of a body count, would it?
The first thing that struck me right off the bat about CUB is the cinematography. It’s really hard to believe that this film was partially crowd-funded because it looks professional and the visuals are stunning. Even though the rest of the film might not quite match the quality of the visuals, I can say that this is probably one of the most gorgeous looking slasher films that I’ve ever seen. As far as the plot is concerned, CUB is mostly by-the-numbers with a few creative twists on familiar material. The pacing sets the scene for over a third of the film and then the violence breaks out. I would argue that this was a tad too much time spent on character development and build-up, especially given that the film runs at just over 80 minutes (counting credits). The few creative twists that are employed on the dusty material are welcome changes, even if I saw the ending coming from a mile away.
What really counts in a slasher movie like this isn’t the story or the characters, it’s all about the kills. CUB has a few whoppers in this department. The killer’s booby traps are appropriately ridiculous and far-fetched. I especially enjoyed seeing a certain scumbag meet a particularly crazy demise, even if it was beyond stupid. However, the movie can’t quite seem to maintain a consistent tone. For example, a long, brutal scene with a dog is really upsetting and doesn’t meld well with the “fun” tone of the rest of the film. I actually was taken out of the movie for about 10 minutes because of that scene. For a movie that sports a ton of potential victims in the asshole boy scouts that bully Sam, it really doesn’t take full advantage of the total number of bodies. I wish that more individual kills took place rather than including a moment that was ballsy…but felt like a cop-out.
As a whole, CUB is an alright slasher homage that ultimately becomes the very thing that it’s a throwback to. It will definitely gain its fans in those who enjoy every single FRIDAY THE 13TH film. For those who aren’t quite that crazy about slasher films (including yours truly), it serves as an unbalanced mess that’s enjoyable in moments (the kills, great visuals, little touches) and frustrating in others (its sheer predictability, a slow first third, a nasty scene involving human-on-dog violence). Simply put, if you love slasher films, then you’ll find something to love in CUB. If slasher films aren’t quite your thing, then it’s a mixed bag with slightly more good than bad.