A dark creepy forest, a slasher with no regard for human life, and an entire group of campers waiting to be killed off; Cub takes us down a familiar road of modern horror and shows us that cliche isn’t exactly bad. In his directorial debut Jonas Govaerts, presents us with a fresh and fun slasher flick that was not only presented well, but just fun to watch altogether. Govaerts even breaks some of Hollywoods biggest rules, which I will get to later. Oh, and did I mention the synth heavy soundtrack?
Cub follows a group of Belgian scouts going on a camping trip with promises by the scout leaders to find the half-boy half-werewolf named Kai. Sam (Maurice Luijten) is an outcast alone in this group of snotty nosed brats. Peter, his scout leader (along with his attack dog) simply won’t stop bullying the poor kid. Venturing out in the woods to get away, Sam meets a feral boy that he believes to be the creature Kai and runs off to alert his fellow scouts. Predictably, no one believes him. Then things get weird when characters begin falling into traps placed around the forest by a maniac, named the poacher in the credits, who wants anybody and everybody killed (I really do mean everybody.)
I didn’t expect it to be as predictable as it was, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The film uses pretty much every overused trope known to the slasher genre, but employs some nice twists that makes them feel fresh. We’re still not breaking any molds here, though. Govaerts does however break the unofficial rules of killing with an unseen, but brutal, dog killing. Yeah sure, some kids get killed too, but no one likes animal brutality. It was pretty ballsy move, but it added to the rawness of things. That scene will stick with me for a while, not only because of the actual act of it, but the overall meaning of that scene.
The writer does an extremely good job building the characters and making you feel as if none of them are safe (even that dog). Even in scenes with no dialogue, the story progressed successfully and the actors really held their own. Maurice Luijten did a wonderful job playing passive little Sam and his descent into madness from the constant bullying. The story itself was a little cheesy, but that didn’t really matter with everything else that was going on for most of the film.
My only real problem I have is with the last few minutes of it all. The ending was extremely predictable and just kind of fizzled out after an otherwise satisfying build up. There’s really no explanation for why the unnamed madman sets up traps in the in the forest and hangs out with a feral boy that lives in a tree. Although he was pretty crucial to the story, the poacher’s presence was pretty weak as he only shows up occasionally to deal some damage.
Govaerts’ cinematography was excellent and super friggin creepy. The design of Kai’s mask is chilling and will be in my thoughts every time time I go camping. Everything about the movie makes the forest feel alive and worked perfectly. I enjoyed the traps and the fun kills that followed. Be prepared for some good old fashion impalings and heads getting smashed in. In hindsight, I really did have fun watching this one both times. I am excited to see what this writer/director has in store for the future!