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  Cub Woodland Screechers
Year: 2014
Director: Jonas Govaerts
Stars: Maurice Luijten, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt, Stef Aerts, Jan Hammenecker, Gill Eeckelaert, Noa Tambwe Kababti, Ricko Otto, Louis Lemmens, Thomas De Smet, Pieter De Brabandere, Jessie Tweepenninckx, Isah De Zutter, Hauke Giernaert, Ebe Meynckens
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's the first day of Scout camp in the Belgian countryside, and the Akela Kris (Titus De Voogdt) assembles his charges at the bus, along with his second-in-command Peter (Stef Aerts) who takes a rather more aggressive approach. So much so that when the team's misfit Sam (Maurice Luijten) arrives a little late he is made to do press-ups as a punishment until Kris steps in and orders everyone into the transport, with Peter driving. All very well until he almost runs over the cook, Jasmijn (Evelien Bosmans) who they have to pick up along the way, but there will be more perilous obstacles for the camp to meet later, as there's a legend of a wildman living in the forest who turns into a werewolf - what if it were true?

Well, it's not true, but there's definitely someone out there watching the kids and their guardians from the wilderness, and they're not planning on inviting them to roast marshmallows while singing Kum Ba Ya. After some experience in short works and television, this was the feature debut of Belgian director Jonas Govaerts, and as a rare horror film from those parts it garnered some attention, though not everyone was happy with the results, either complaining it was derivative or just too unpleasant to be enjoyable. But for a more seasoned fright fan, they may well appreciate this was one as part of a cycle of twenty-tens throwbacks to the genre efforts of the eighties.

For a start, you could praise the synth score by Steve Moore which sounded pleasingly authentic as a soundtrack to a vintage nasty, and helped plenty in creating the atmosphere where things would be getting very dark indeed, and not because the production was saving on running the lighting generators. Then most obviously it was the backwoods killer subgenre that Govaerts was paying homage to, a mostly North American style but one which popped up in other nation's shockers as well, but you could go on spotting the references and tributes for a while, when the real interest lay in what the director did with those influences, which here was a study of how abuse can become a vicious circle.

Not sexual abuse, this was going to get grim enough as it was, but you could make allusions to the way that putting a child through an exceptionally difficult time can result in some terrible behaviour later on, sometimes in the brief time period we saw here, other times over the course of years or even decades. If this sounded pretty heavy for a basic slasher movie where the most you'd expect would be a runaround with masked murderer bumping off the various folks hapless enough to cross their path, then there were indications Govaerts had considered his material with some care and wasn't simply throwing together some cheap cash-in for the straight to video market, and that paid off with excellent photography and a genuine unease when you realised he wasn't pulling his punches.

Poor old Sam was the subject of the film's thesis, therefore had to be put through the wringer as Peter continually picks on him, an example of how power used for petty bullying can have dire consequences out of proportion to the acts themselves, which then propagate further misery among those who didn't deserve it, and so forth. It is Sam who twigs that there is a wild boy named Kai who is abroad in the trees, and he turns out to wear a wooden mask, never speaks, and has somehow set up a bunch of Hunger Games traps around the area to off the unwary. Or has he? Well, no, it's actually a far more destructive individual who is the biggest threat, and mayhem ensues as the Scouts try to resist his violence, initially blaming it on Sam until they realise too late what is going on. That mayhem took a ruthless form in deciding who would be a survivor and who wouldn't, going in a European direction whereas the American ones would more likely give you someone to cheer for in the final confrontation. More substantial than the synopsis might indicate, though faithful to certain conventions.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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