Cub, or: Backwoods Belgian Bloodbath

Cub, a.k.a Welp, is a movie about a bevy of hormonal Cub Scouts, a creepy campfire tale, and a feral child. It’s an interesting premise that gives us some of the de rigur horror tropes without being a hollow rehash of cliches. The big question behind this partially Indiegogo-funded flick is this: with more than half the cast made up of minors, will Cub break that horror movie rule of the kids remaining alive and (relatively) unharmed?

Cub_Scouts_Group_Cub_Movie_Horror_BelgiumDead meat?

In short order we are introduced to our cast of characters, including Sam, a troubled scout with a mysterious past, scoutmasters Kris and Peter, and Jasmijn, the cook. There’s also Peter’s dog, Zoltan. The leaders prime the kids with a tale of boy-turned-werewolf Kai who stalks the very forest they’re camping in. Most of the kids are dismissive, but Sam seems impressionable. Properly primed for a trip full of fun scares, the group sets off.

Now if there’s one thing I look for in a Cub Scout campsite it’s abandoned factories and barbed wire. Thankfully our group drives a little farther and opts to spend the night in a suicide forest instead.

Abandoned_Factory_Belgium_CubThis is not at all terrifying.

It’s a good thing Johnny Law is close by in case of trouble.

I feel safer already.

Cub’s first act is deliciously slow, giving the atmosphere time to percolate and the characters time to develop. It’s a slow slide into the realization that something is wrong in these woods. Sam is the only character to see the feral child and immediately assumes he’s the werewolf boy Kai. Anything Kai gets up to is blamed on the troubled Sam and does nothing to further Sam’s relationship with his fellow scouts or the jerkass scoutmaster Pete.

The eponymous cub is unsettling enough that it’s easy to forget he’s a kid. It’s an excellent performance by Gill Eeckelaert, whose ragged snarly breathing, lurching gait, and sinister mask all help make his wordless performance ooze dread.

img_7090No one wants to wake up to a drooling feral child in their tent. No one.

The killings in the second act are creative contrivances that make the audience wonder just who or what is really out in the forest. The movie spends some time tap dancing around the issue of killing Cub Scouts, never really committing itself. This is mildly disappointing because the Rube Goldberg nature of the deaths could have eased the tension with some humor. Also, if you’re going to put kids in mortal peril, don’t flinch.

It is here that I would like to take a moment to talk about poor Zoltan. Most of us know what’s going to happen when a dog shows up in a horror movie. Cub is no different, however it is brutal and extremely cruel. Be warned.

The latter half of the movie loses its footing somewhat and seems to have some trouble making up its mind about exactly where things should end. I, personally, would have enjoyed more of the Rube Goldberg deaths. The movie culminates in an interesting fight scene that doubles as a metaphor for one’s own humanity vs. the darker aspects of the self. Yeah, it gets deep in the end. At least for a few minutes.

Mostly, Cub is an enjoyable film that never completely lives up to its potential. What’s most impressive is that this is the freshman effort by director Jonas Govaerts in his first foray behind the camera. Hopefully it won’t be his last.

See you next week, dreadful darlings. -BB

True Story Tuesdays: The Legend of Boggy Creek

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Welcome to a new feature at Beastly Bec – True Story Tuesdays!  One Tuesday a month  I’ll cover a true, inspired by, or based-on-actual-events horror flick.  I’m kicking things off with The Legend of Boggy Creek, the cultiest of all culty Bigfoot movies out there.

IMG_7058Brought to you in glorious seventies SD!

The Legend of Boggy Creek is the 1972 directorial debut of Charles B. Pierce, who would go on to give us the classic The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Based on a spate of Sasquatch sightings that took place in Fouke, Arkansas, Boggy Creek is an early example of docudrama.  The movie uses real townsfolk but plenty of staged interviews and dramatic reenactments.  Also, it has this Bigfoot costume.

IMG_7060Eek.

Vern Stierman narrates the film in such a way that he makes The Legend of Boggy Creek sound like The Waltons vs. Bigfoot. First seen by hunters, the Fouke Monster (as it came to be called) mostly stands at a distance and stares.  But things quickly take a turn for the scary when Bigfoot spooks a group of women home alone and does not make friends with their cat.

IMG_7063Lacking a prop cat or an actual dead cat, panning out on a still shot of a live cat will do.

A few Sasquatch sightings later, the menfolk of Fouke have had enough.  They get together lots of dogs and guns and hit the woods to try and rid the county of the Bigfoot menace. But the terrified mutts won’t track Bigfoot and the creature proves elusive.

The movie flounders a bit as we go from ramping up the tension to “and then no one saw the Fouke monster again for eight years.”  Also, because it’s the seventies, someone bursts into song.  Presumably because the movie is looking for something, anything, to put on film, this kid goes canoeing and later eats lunch.

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Bigfoot finally shows up again, once on a dark road and once in a dark chicken coop, before someone finds his footprints in Willie Smith’s bean field. There is a short debate over whether or not the prints could have been left by a gorilla or an orangutan, but as neither of these are creatures native to the backwoods of Arkansas, and the prints have three toes, this is quickly ruled out.

IMG_7069Pictured: Not a gorilla

A few more folks see Bigfoot before he scares the pants off three girls in a mobile home, one of whom has the presence of mind to grab a rifle.  Unfortunately the girls elect to scream loudly and incessantly instead of blowing  Bigfoot’s fuzzy face off.  While the narrator posits that Bigfoot is frustrated due to loneliness, it’s hard to feel sympathy for a creature that skins a dog (off camera) and repeatedly terrorizes women and children.

IMG_7072Middle of nowhere?  Something scary happening?  Make sure you take your kids outside.

Someone finally manages to get a few shots off at Bigfoot, but the sheriff insists the strange tracks they find are only panther tracks and leaves.  Bigfoot finally physically attacks a man right before the soundtrack switches to a snappy jazz number.  The movie winds down to the possibility that Bigfoot is still out there, lurking, waiting, watching…

The Legend of Boggy Creek is a fun foray into vintage horror.  While not scary, it does a good job of tuning into the eerie feeling of being alone at night and hearing a noise that’s probably the wind, or an animal, but could just as easily be Bigfoot.  Despite the cheese, lack of effects, and only fleeting glimpses of Bigfoot, Boggy Creek is an enjoyable watch fit for a warm summer night when the windows are open.  And if you’re ever in Fouke, Arkansas, you might want to steer well clear of the creeks.

Until next time, my dreadful darlings! -BB

 

 

Shark Exorcist, or: The Power of Chum Compels You!

I imagine the meeting went something like this:

“Quick!  Name two of the best horror films ever made!”

“Well, there’s Jaws and, um, The Exorcist?

“Awesome!  So what if a shark got possessed?”

“Yeah!”

“And it should have boobs.”

“But what if kids want to watch?”

“Boobs in bikinis!”

“Hell yeah!”

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Shark Exorcist is a 2015 film directed by Donald Farmer who gave us An Erotic Vampire in Paris and Hooker With a Hacksaw.  Starring no one you’ve ever heard of, Shark Exorcist brings together a Z-list cast and potato-quality special effects.

She watched this movie.

This movie immediately forgets that being terrible is only one part of what makes B-movies great. Shark Exorcist isn’t funny.  Sharknado was funny.  Sharktopus was hilarious.  Even Jersey Shore Shark Attack made me snarf.  I want to give Shark Exorcist a fair shake so I’ll admit those B-grade shark movies had a budget and a few named actors.  Fine, I even enjoyed the approximately $12 production of Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You.  Also, some of the characters from the above movies were likeable and the stories are fun.  Remember all you wannabe movie makers out there: story and character are key even if your movie is B.

It all starts out with a (possessed?) nun who has already killed 13 kids then randomly kills another woman before tossing her in a lake called Paris Landing and asking “Lord Satan” to “send [her] an avenger!” At which point we cut to this:

How did the great white get in the lake?  Probably Satan.

Meanwhile, a group of girls goes to the lake, where one is attacked and then possessed by the possessed shark. I will admit some confusion because if the shark is still possessed and the girl is now possessed then who or what is possessing both of them?  Can Satan pull double-duty?  Is possession now transferred via shark saliva?  Also, how do we know the girl, Ali, is possessed?

This is how.

After Ali lures a boy to Paris Landing where he is consumed by the shark (in what is not one of the great shark attack scenes), we get to meet Father Michael, a priest who wears in ill-fitting Roman collar and crosses himself a lot so we know he’s definitely a priest.

I don’t know who these people are but they show up next:

I’m assuming witches.

There are various scenes of shark possession (out of the water) before this girl shows up for some reason and goes swimming with Ali.  Except she’s a dream!  I think.

I know, she’s the special effects team!

Fr. Mike somehow figures out Satan has come to Paris Landing and begins an investigation, concluding that Ali is possessed because she’s not eating and loves water.  I’m also guessing here because Fr. Mike doesn’t mention possession, demons, or Satan.

After a dialogue-free, action-free scene that stretches on for an excruciating five minutes, it’s time for Father Michael and Ali’s roommate to exorcise the demon!  Here the movie remembers that it’s supposed to be spoofing Jaws and The Exorcist so we have the pea soup barf, and, I wish I was kidding; “We’re gonna need a bigger cross.”

The King James version specifically mentions tiki torches as a must-have item for driving out Satan.

More stuff happens, including the demon shark descending from the sky. I’d normally be more specific than “stuff happens” but we’re never actually shown or even told what happens so stuff happens.

Finally, blessedly, with a few more deaths and a “Hail Satan!” for good measure, the movie draws to a close.  The demon shark is still out there eating people.  There’s still a few possessed people, and goddamnit no one performed an exorcism on a shark! I wanted to see an exorcism on a shark.

This movie totals two post-credit scenes, one of which is long and both of which are dialogue-free.  In the first, a girl does stuff with a plastic shark that makes everyone uncomfortable before spitting juice at the camera.  The second?  Well, I’d hate to spoil the ending and potential sequel for you all.

Farewell, flying demon-shark. You deserved a better movie.

Grabbers, or: Irish Tentacle Monsters from Spaaaaaaace

I don’t expect a lot from movies about tentacle monsters, other than there should be plenty of tentacles and that those tentacles should rend many bodies asunder. Grabbers has no shortage of tentacles and plenty of rending, but the big surprise is that it’s an excellent movie. Yes, an excellent movie about tentacle creatures from outer space who terrorize a small Irish island. Bear with me for a minute here.

Grabbers is a film refreshingly free of stereoty….
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…never mind.

Okay, so Grabbers embraces the hard-drinking Irishman thing with all the fervor of a hungry tentacle beast. But it works. The film opens with that familiar shot (think Predator and The Thing) of something entering earth’s atmosphere. After splashdown and after offing the crew of the one fishing boat unlucky enough to be in the vicinity, the tentacle monsters head to the pastoral Erin Island.
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Pretty, innit?

And here the movie takes a breath to do something that not a lot of tentacle monster movies do. It establishes both characters and plot. With subplots, even! It’s a short breath, of course, we’re here for tentacle monsters, not Masterpiece Theatre. But we have enough time to meet the not-so-functional alcoholic Garda Ciarán O’Shea and the straight-laced Garda Lisa Nolan, the latter having been hired while the boss is away to keep the former in line. Garda, by the way, is the Irish word for police.

But something strange is afoot. Pilot whales with weird, tentacle-like marks suddenly beach themselves. A lobsterman named Paddy finds something that is decidedly not a lobster in his trap (and learns a valuable lesson about keeping tentacle monsters in your bathtub). And several people meet their doom courtesy of a much larger tentacle critter than Paddy’s new pet.

It isn’t long before Gardas O’Shea and Nolan, with the help of Paddy and a local marine biologist, figure out that the rolling hills of Erin Island are swarming with tentacle monsters. But these tentacle monsters didn’t check their guidebooks before heading to the Emerald Isle because they’re deathly allergic to alcohol. I won’t give away much more for fear of spoiling an enjoyable movie, but suffice it to say watching everyone cope with a tentacled menace while thoroughly shitfaced is both original and hilarious.

What Grabbers does right is character. It’s not often that I sit through a tentacle monster movie, or any monster movie, and wind up rooting for the humans. But I found myself hoping that a few of these people didn’t get decapitated, exsanguinated, or meet some other tentacled fate (especially Paddy who steals more than one scene). The solid characters raise what might have been a meh movie to a much higher tier. Above all, Grabbers is fun. It’s pizza and beer on a Friday night kind of movie.

Unfortunately, Grabbers is still hard to come by in the US unless you happen to have a region-free DVD player, but I strongly encourage you to track down a copy. Do it for Paddy.

Bait, or: Just When You Thought it was Safe to Buy Pringles

Thanksgiving is that magical time of year when my countrymen and I embrace gluttony with wild abandon. Prep for this most wondrous feast usually involves a few trips to the grocery store. Most of us just have to worry that the store will sell out of our favorite brand of cranberry sauce. The characters in Bait have to worry about getting eaten alive by sharks.
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Wait, what?

The first 20 minutes of the Australian import Bait are spent giving us some backstory on the main characters, all of whom have enough combined angst to fill a U-Haul. First up is Josh, a lifeguard whose best friend is nommed by a shark (a run-of-the-mill ocean shark, not a grocery store shark) in the first few minutes. Josh’s howls of anguish are comedically overdone, but he does teach us how to properly express grief while on a jet ski.

A year later we find Josh working at a grocery store where he conveniently bumps into his ex-fiancee (the chomped best friend’s sister) and her current boyfriend. We also meet the shoplifter Jaimie, who is working through the grief of losing her mom through lifting sunglasses and what appears to be shampoo (Pantene cures all ills, after all). The cop called to deal with Jaimie is, of course, her dad. There are also the robbers Doyle (Julian McMahon, Dr. Doom from Fantastic Four) and his partner Kirby who has strong armed Doyle into robbing the joint. We also meet the store manager, Jaimie’s boyfriend, a couple of yuppies, and a pomeranian.

So, how do the sharks get into the grocery store? Simple. This happens:
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Bet you didn’t know tsunamis in Australia come pre-loaded with sharks.

And so our motley crew valiantly scales the grocery store shelves, blissfully unaware of the shark swimming placidly among the canned peas. At this point, I’d officially like to nominate the grocery store manager for the Worst Day Ever Award. I mean, who catches a shoplifter, has a gun pointed at his head during a robbery, survives a tsunami, and then has to fend off sharks? That has to be some kind of a record.

As if having Josh & co trapped on the grocery store shelves wasn’t enough to keep us occupied, we also get to follow along with three people and a pooch trapped in the carpark (where there is also a shark). Two of these folks have the most waterproof car in the universe. Seriously, you could drive that thing to England.

The people on the shelves eventually realize they’re not alone. The water is rising, but slowly. Through various, and occasionally hilarious, plans to escape/ensure their safety, these people practically throw themselves into the waiting jaws of the great white. If you ever find yourself trapped in a grocery store with a shark, take a lesson from Bait and for the love of God, stay on the shelves! (I was reminded of the In Living ColorStay in Your Car!” sketch from years ago.)20121119-235407.jpg
(What could possibly go wrong?)

Bait is not earth-shatteringly good, nor does it suck. The premise is ridiculous, there’s lots going on, and the actors try a little too hard to play it straight. That said, it’s a fun way to kill a Friday night. And anyway, it has sharks in a grocery store. You know you want to see that.

Stay tuned for next week’s review of Grabbers, or: Irish Tentacle Monsters from Spaaaaace.

Chernobyl Diaries, or: Midnight in Antarctica During a Lunar Eclipse

What are the three creepiest places on earth? I’d have to go with La Isla de Munecas (look it up if you don’t want to sleep tonight), Poveglia (ditto), and Prypiat. Prypiat, the Ukrainian town abandoned when the Chernobyl reactor blew in 1986 is absolutely one of the creepiest places ever.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, if you’re making a movie set in Chernobyl, Chernobyl should be a character in and of itself. They couldn’t film in Prypiat, because Prypiat is still contaminated. You can go there with the proper permits, but even the company that runs tours recommends you go in with a Geiger counter, protective suit, and “clothes that fully cover your body.” So while I support director Oren Peli’s decision not to give the cast and crew cancer, there are still plenty of places out there that could be made Prypiat-esque with a little window dressing.

I went into this movie expecting a slow burn, a movie that captured, at least a little bit, the pervading sense of tragedy and loss that surrounds the Chernobyl disaster. An eerie movie that melds the reality of Prypiat with fiction. A movie that’s creepy. Chernobyl Diaries is not creepy and it’s definitely not scary. Without giving away who/what is supposed to be scary in Chernobyl Diaries, I’ll sum up the plot.

Chernobyl Diaries centers around a group of kids cavorting through Europe who make a pit stop in Kiev to visit one guy’s brother. None of these characters are likable, and not one has the sense to say “eff that” when the brother gets the brilliant ideal to check out Chernobyl with the totally-not-sketchy tour guide, Yuri. So, our intrepid band of morons set off on a magical mystery tour of Prypiat.

The first scare has four legs. Assuming you don’t have a deathly fear of dogs (and even if you do), which one of these would you least want to encounter while walking through Chernobyl?

This guy?

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Or this guy?

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Yeah. Bear in mind that there is an active wolf population in Chernobyl. And Peli could have gone with scraggly wolves, with mutant wolves, hell, with glow in the dark wolves. Anything made of wolf would have gone over a lot better than remarkably healthy and cute dogs. Or if the wolf budget was that low, throw a little mud on the pooches. Make them scruffy and scary and mangy. The kind of dog you’d expect to encounter while day tripping through Prypiat.

Once the “real” scares start you can’t tell what’s going on. Not in the “holy crap what IS it?!” way, but in the Mr. Magoo way. Pictures speak a thousand words so here are two screencaps from my DVD:

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Few scenes are shot in daylight, completely squandering opportunities to set a really creepy trapped-in-a-desolate-and-radioactive-ghost town mood. The rest of the movie plays out with all the ambiance of midnight in Antarctica during a lunar eclipse. Most scenes are obliterated by either near-total darkness or an actor shining the flashlight directly into the camera, much like a cop at a traffic stop.

Oh, Chernobyl Diaries, I wanted to like you. I so, so wanted to like you. I would have liked you if you were mediocre, even. The final scare provides a meh ending to a sub-meh movie. So if you have the hankering for a creepy abandoned place movie, go watch the superior Session 9 while you wait patiently with me for someone to make a Chernobyl movie that’s actually frightening.

Photo Credits:
Wolf Picture German Shepherd Picture