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TIFF Reviews: Belgian Horror ‘Cub’ & Bent Hamer’s ‘1001 Grams’

TIFF Reviews: Belgian Horror 'Cub' & Bent Hamer's '1001 Grams'

To give you an idea of just how huge TIFF is, and how much there is to choose from, the fest ended days ago, and we’ve still got a couple of reviews left to get out there before we can close the book on everything. And so, here’s the coverage of our last couple of movies, and for more be sure to check out our Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and our recent podcast The Playlist Talks Telluride, TIFF, Venice And Reductive Oscar Narratives.

This little Belgian horror film sounds so fantastically appealing on paper, we thought we were going to discover something precious. But, Jonas Govaerts found a way to turn a unique setting and a delicious concept into a neutered, systematic, and tedious affair. It’s his first foray into theatrical features, with a handful of TV episodes on his résumé, and it’s a lack of experience that’s evident once the entire point of “Cub” is revealed. Sam (Maurice Luijten) is a 12-year-old boy scout with a troubled past, whose imagination and rebellious tendencies cause scoutmasters Kris (Titus De Voogdt) and Baloo (Stef Aerts) considerable frustration. Sam makes it just in time for his troop’s camping trip, which Kris and Baloo have spiced up with a folktale about a wolf-boy named Kai, who sneaks around at night and makes people disappear. Once the troop gets to the camp (against the advice of authorities and locals along the way, of course) it becomes apparent that the forest is laced with booby traps, and not only does Kai exist, but there’s a creepy guy in some kind of underground basement controlling all the traps. Oozing with potential and opportunities for inventive scares, “Cub” is unique in theory only. Scenes pander to shock-value horror antics, but end up with very little shock and zero value. The traps, characters, and progression of events are all mildly creative at best and have only a meager hold our attention. Once the anti-climactic plot twist in the finale hits, all we are left with is disappointment. Perhaps it would have worked as a 30-minute episode on TV, but as far as theatrical features go, “Cub” is a puppy with no bite. [D+]

1001 Grams
Bent Hamer is no stranger to quirky, comedic narratives. His “Kitchen Stories” told the tale of the oddest scientific study put to film, while “O’Horten” followed a retiree who rediscovers the zest for life. They are minor key tales, and when they work, they reveal a big humanity behind them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with his latest, “1001 Grams.” The oddball premise we expect is here, with the film following Marie (Ane Dahl Torp), who is suddenly tasked with carefully guarding Norway’s calibrated kilogram weight, after her father, who works at the same scientific institute she does, becomes ill. And so, her new responsibilities take to her to a conference in France, and away from the troubles in her own life, which include a divorce that sees her ex-husband returning each night to their former home in his expensive SUV to cart away more of his belongings. “Life’s heaviest burden is to have nothing to carry” and “By time we learn to live, it’s already too late,” are just a couple kernels of Reader’s Digest wisdom in the movie, and it’s indicative of the film’s too on-the-nose approach which also highlights that there’s not much substance to the picture. A slow-build romance towards the second half of the movie isn’t enough to add dimension to this featherweight picture, which utilizes the visual metaphor of Marie walking around continuously with a weight, just to ensure you won’t miss the point. Lacking the looseness and easy charm of previous efforts, Hamer’s “1001 Grams” is a forgettable disappointment. [C] 

Catch up with all our coverage from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival here.

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