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Fantastic Fest 2014: ‘Cub’ succeeds when it embraces the craziness of its premise

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Cub 
Written by Jonas Govaerts and Roel Mondelaers
Directed by Jonas Govaerts
Belgium, 2014

Cub scouts and crazed killers are are such a wacky combination for a horror film, and therefore viewers should be able to expect a fair amount of insanity from Jonas Govaerts’ debut feature; however, it is only in its final act that Cub finally achieves the appropriate atmosphere. Those last 20 minutes are exhilarating, and they more than make up for the first 65. It is not that the first two thirds of Cub are terrible; they just don’t really lead anywhere.

Set over the course of a weekend camping trip, Cub focuses on twelve-year-old Sam (Maurice Luijten) and his fellow scouts. Before the children set out on their excursion, their troop leaders scare them with a story about a monster that lives in the woods. Sam encounters a feral child shortly after arriving at the campsite and believes this to be the creature from the story. Meanwhile, a psychopath skulks around the perimeter of the forest, murdering anyone who crosses his path.

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There are so many disparate elements to Cub: Sam, the child, the killer, and the rest of the campers are all given extensive focus, but it is unclear when and how these characters will converge. The convoluted storyline mixed with the relative lack of horror make the early parts of the film somewhat of a drag. In the end, though, Govaerts remedies both of these issues.

The best part about Cub’s final act is that it completely disposes of its narrative. Little makes sense in these sequences, but the movie finally embraces the craziness of its premise. With his final act, Govaerts is uncompromising when it comes to depicting brutality, which is refreshing considering how stagnant the earlier sections of the film are. For the longest time, Cub is held back by a story that pulls it in numerous directions. It is only when darkness takes center stage that the movie is finally able to settle into a groove. In this particular instance, insanity easily wins out over rationality.

– Jacob Carter

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