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Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/18/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/25/2015
It's not unusual for hardcore movie fans to scour foreign films to try and find something different. While it may seem like a stereotype, there's some truth to the notion that movies from Europe and Asia are unlike their American counterparts in tone, content, and overall aesthetic. In our global digital age, it has gotten much easier to explore these foreign films, either through streaming services or importing Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. However, checking out a foreign movie doesn't mean that you are going to get a unique experience. The Belgian film Cub is a great example of this.
As Cub opens, a group of scouts are preparing to embark on a camping trip. As Sam (Maurice Luijten) finally arrives, troop masters Kris (Titus De Voogdt) and Peter (Stef Aerts) load up the group of boys and move out. Along the way, they stop and pick up Jasmijn (Evelien Bosmans), who will be a third leader and the cook. They arrive at their reserved campsite, but a pair of hooligans refuse to relinquish the land, so Kris and Peter decide to move deeper into the woods. Little do they know that they've invaded the territory of some truly dangerous individuals. The leaders and the boys build their tents and get settled in, while Sam goes into the woods, where he meets a feral boy (Gill Eeckelaert). Of course, Kris and Peter dismiss Sam's claim as an after-effect of a campfire tale, and thus aren't prepared for the horrors they are about to confront.
Going into Cub, I knew very little about the film and really didn't know what to expect. While this is certainly a foreign language movie, what I found was a movie which played very much like an American film. The overall feel of the film is very reminiscent of something like Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes, combined with a Friday the 13th movie. We have a group of people who innocently go into the woods and learn that they have trespassed into the territory of a certain someone (or someones) who is very dangerous. The pleasurable trip soon turns into a game of "can & mouse", as the scouts try to survive. The movie definitely has the vibe of an American "backwoods horror" movie given the traps set by the locals.
But, this is clearly a foreign film as well. In 2000, a film entitledBattle Royale was released in Japan and it quickly gained an international reputation. At the time, many felt that it would never be released in the U.S. due to it's depiction of teenagers killing one another. (It was eventually released onto home video in America in 2012.) I immediately had a similar thought while watching Cub, despite the fact that I was watching an American home video release. The movie doesn't bat an eye when it comes to putting the kids in danger and while the on-screen violence here is relatively low, there is no doubt that some bad things happen to these kids. This is not to imply that Europeans enjoying watching children get hurt -- There is simply a different view towards violence there and it shows through here. The foreign nature of Cub is also evident in the scene where Kris and Peter confront the hooligans, who are French. I didn't know that there was a beef between Belgians and the French.
Nationalities and influences aside, one thing is for sure -- Cub falls apart in the third act. Director Jonas Govaerts does a nice job building the tension in the first half of the film, as well as giving the movie a very slick look on a low budget. But, the story simply walks away during the finale, leaving far too many unanswered questions. While some clues are given, we are essentially told nothing about what is going on in the woods and who is after the boys. This goes beyond an open ending -- the movie simply doesn't tell us, as if it forgot. This leaves a gaping hole in the movie and seriously robs the film of not only a satisfying conclusion, but a conclusion period. I liked the first half of Cub, as it was neat to see a European take on a cliched American movie, but the ending takes us right back to ambiguous Euro-territory.
Cub raises a lot of questions about scouting in Belgium on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Artsploitation Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing on notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright, even during the nighttime scenes. The level of detail is very good and the depth is impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track does a fine job of highlighting sounds coming from the forest, as we are treated to stereo and surround sound effects which do a nice job of coming from all four speakers. The subwoofer gets in on the action during the action sequences.
The Cub Blu-ray Disc contains a small assortment of extra features. We get two DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. One of these shows us Sam's home life. "VFX Reel" (3 minutes) offers a detailed look at the subtle usage of visual effects to enhance the backgrounds of some shots. "Of Cats and Women" (13 minutes) is a short-film from Director Jonas Govaerts. The final extra is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "One Hour" by Deadsets, which was also directed by Govaerts.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long