A superbly crafted Belgium horror film that pushes the envelope with its raw edge

Cub is an extremely well-crafted film that may become known as a new horror masterpiece. It is a genuinely dark, disturbing thriller that proves unforgettable in its stunning final act. The Belgium film is an amazing debut for rookie director Jonas Govaerts, marking him as a rising horror auteur from Europe. A weekend camping trip for a troop of cub scouts turns terrifying when a mysterious feral boy appears from the woods. Cub should soon garner wider acclaim as a new horror classic coming from Europe.

A group of cub scouts from Antwerp are taken to a remote French campsite by an abandoned factory. Their adult troop leaders scare the young boys with tales of a local legend, a feral werewolf boy roaming the countryside known as Kai. There have been reports of missing persons in the area and Kai is supposedly behind their deaths. The main focus of Cub is young Sam (Maurice Luijten), a misunderstood scout that doesn’t get along with the other boys. The 12-year-old Sam possesses a quiet intensity and a great deal of courage for his age. Sam is not a troublemaker but his lone wolf ways ostracize him from the group.

The fun-filled camp outing turns dangerous when Sam alone makes contact with a mysterious feral creature that seems to be a young boy. Who or what is this boy? When Sam tells the adults he has met Kai, they laugh in his face and tell him to stop making things up. The rest of the film is an intense fight for survival as we learn about the mysteries hiding deep in these woods. I am purposely being vague about specifics because Cub is best experienced without preconceptions about its plot or characters.

Cub constantly subverts your expectations in its second half, making it a taut thriller that never lets up. It’s a bloody film that goes places few movies have ever dared. A couple of the sequences that ring the final act are shockingly original and gruesome, a true rarity in a genre that endlessly copies itself. This slick package is made possible with a very convincing set-up that introduces us to these believable characters. Sam is an engaging tween protagonist that is slowly put into an impossible situation he must overcome. Kris is the adult troop leader that wants to do what is right for Sam but has to manage an entire group of young scouts.

We may be witnessing the birth of a major new talent.

Cub is so elegantly crafted that it makes director Jonas Govaerts’ next movie an eagerly anticipated event. We may be witnessing the birth of a major new talent. It is almost certain that Hollywood will want their own crack at making this movie. Much like classic foreign horror like Ringu was turned into The Ring by Hollywood, the Belgium film is ready-made for a Hollywood remake. Its classic terror-in-the-woods horror would translate almost perfectly into an English production for Hollywood.

Why wait for what will be an inferior remake when you can see the incredible original film right now? Cub is the best horror movie that has been released this year. As long as reading subtitles doesn’t scare you, this is must-see viewing for horror fans.

Movie ★★★★★

Running a perfectly taut 84 minutes, Cub is encoded in AVC on a BD-25. The startling crisp video quality averages a fine 21.71 Mbps for the main feature. Cub is presented in its native 2.35:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution. New horror label Artsploitation Films delivers a spectacular looking Blu-ray for Cub. The 2014 film has picture-perfect clarity with vivid resolution. It’s a real stunner for an independent European horror film, on par with more expensive Hollywood productions.

The woods in Cub make a perfect setting for its disarmingly simple story of young scouts enjoying the outdoors. The razor-sharp movie has outstanding definition and dimension. A shallow depth-of-field highlights an incredible amount of high-frequency content and fine detail in the foreground. This is gorgeous cinematography that tricks the viewer into a false sense of security, making the final brutality all the more shocking.

Artsploitation Films is a young label when it comes to the Blu-ray game and Cub is possibly their first release that comes on a normally pressed BD like other distributors. They’ve done a magnificent job on this pristine digital transfer. Cub succeeds equally as well in picture quality as being a great horror movie.

Video ★★★★★

Cub receives a nice 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack in Flemish and French with thumping bass. The subtle audio cues add a decent amount of atmosphere to the menacing and creepy film, especially in the quieter moments. A fair amount of surround activity complements the front sound stage’s clean dialogue and moving score by Scott Moore. I’ve heard more intricate sound design on bigger horror productions but Cub certainly makes an impact with its audio.

The optional English subtitles display in an off-white font. They do appear partially outside the widescreen scope framing of the main feature. Two dubs are provided in lossy form.

Audio ★★★★☆

Artsploitation Films has moved to a cool transparent Blu-ray case for this release with interior artwork available on the backside of its cover. They have also moved to pressing actual Blu-rays with this release, instead of their earlier releases made on BD-Rs. Three trailers for other Artsploitation Films’ Blu-rays precede the main menu.

The bonus material is interesting, if brief in scope. We get an early short film done by director Jonas Govaerts. The three minute VFX reel is a really slick featurette, wordlessly showing us the before-and-after pictures of several sets during the VFX process. I actually liked the song for the music video a great deal, though the bizarre video doesn’t really fit the song itself.

Deleted Scenes (03:25, 03: 22 in SD with English subs) – Two deleted scenes that would have fit very early into Cub. The director made the right call in excising them from Cub, they would have added very little.

VFX Reel (03:03 in HD) – A very cool piece showing us the changes in landscape and background from the VFX work. The VFX work in Cub is completely seamless and fits perfectly into the movie.

Of Cats and Women (13:15 in SD with English Subs) – A short film from the director about a deranged woman that takes her revenge on a man through his poor cat. It’s a witty, fluid piece of horror.

Dead Sets “One Hour” music video (03:37 in HD) – The director was in the music scene for many years before switching to filmmaking.

Cub Trailer (01:44 in HD)

Bloody Knuckles Trailer (01:48 in HD)

Der Samurai Trailer (01:55 in HD)

The Treatment Trailer (02:16 in HD)

Extras ★★★☆☆


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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