Director: Jonas Govaerts | 87 minutes | adventure, horror | Actors: Stef Aerts, Evelien Bosmans, Titus de Voogdt, Gill Eeckelaert, Jan Hammenecker, Maurice Luijten
Although horror films can also count on a reasonable number of fans in the Low Countries, horror prints from Dutch and Belgian soil are quite scarce. ‘De Lift’, the dark horror epic ‘De Johnsons’ directed by Rudolf van den Berg and the more recent, also somewhat more humorous and action-packed ‘Sint’ by Dick Maas are probably the best known and most successful Dutch-language horror productions. . The Belgians are now also making a contribution with the film “Cub”. The print tells the story of Sam, a young scout who leaves camp for the Ardennes. To spice up the camp, the three-headed leaders make up the legend about Kai, a dangerous forest child who wanders around the forest where the camp is located. The other cubs dismiss Kai as a fabrication, but Sam’s fantasy is tinged: the imaginative, somewhat introverted boy investigates and soon discovers that there is real danger in the dark forests around the campsite …
The beginning of “Cub” is quite intriguing. We see a bloody young woman running through the forest in blind panic, watched by a mysterious figure with a terrifying wooden mask. This stimulating intermezzo is followed by an extensive introduction in which we see how a group of scouts and their three akelas set up camp in the Ardennes (in reality the film was shot in the Kempen) forests. Although that introduction may be a bit slow for fans of action and bloody excesses, the prologue is useful in introducing the viewer to the rather complex character of protagonist Sam. Moreover, the totally different personalities of the three akelas are explored in this way. For example, Kris, the oldest of the three, has the most sense of responsibility. He has his heart in the right place and shows great respect for the scouting tradition. Peter (who is usually referred to by his nickname Baloo), on the other hand, is more the tough bad boy, a type that boys and girls look up to, but who, due to his fairly selfish nature, may be less suitable for leading a group of children. Jasmijn is above all someone with a gentle and caring disposition.
Although the necessary attention is paid to character development, the real horror fan will of course be mainly interested in the creepiness of “Cub”. The good news is that that aspect is largely fine. The Kempen, according to legends also one of the areas where the dreaded goat riders used to roam, form a beautiful, quite fairy-like setting for the story. The Poacher, a psychopath who has made perilous booby traps all over the forest, and the forest boy Kai are pretty convincing villains. The more gory scenes are nicely dosed, so that the gore always serves the tension and atmosphere. Nevertheless, the film does contain a number of confronting fragments, including a scene that is especially for avid animal lovers to swallow. Unfortunately, the more experienced horror viewer will see the in itself nice twist at the end from quite a distance, but that does not mean that the good aspects of “Cub” far outnumber the lesser parts of the film.
Ultimately, the first real horror film from Flemish soil turned out to be a very decent print that guarantees a pleasant scare for less than an hour and a half.