Cub is my kind of horror film. It’s fast, cool, and - when the violence hits - unapologetically brutal enough to elicit shocked laughter. The film also has a lot of kids getting killed. Always a plus.
The plot is extremely simple. A bunch of Cub Scouts are going to camp in the woods under the supervision of three adults and one dog. Once they arrive, some violent horror film shit goes down and really screws up their plans to make S'mores.
Actually, I’m oversimplifying this a bit. While Cub feels active and interesting from beginning to end, I realize in retrospect that we don’t get to the really good stuff until quite a ways through the film. The boys arrive at camp, and one of them, a troubled kid named Sam, begins to develop a weird bromance with a feral boy he finds living in the woods. This portion of the film really doesn’t offer much in the way of violence, but the feral kid is curious and interesting enough without the benefit of bloodshed, which grants Cub the ability to tell a story without boring us as we wait for the body count to start rising. In fact, it maybe could have taken a little more time to develop Sam and his masked, woodland buddy further.
Once we do get to the killing portion of the film, however, Cub gets almost hilariously relentless, moving so fast that when it ended I felt certain there had to be another twenty minutes left to go. Its villain, just some backwoods guy with an underground lair from which he controls and monitors his forest full of cool and fun booby traps, is presented with little mystery or reliance on horror tropes. He’s just there. He doesn’t wear a mask or really hide himself. He’s not inhuman or anything like that (as far as we know). He’s just a mean guy with his own little feral sidekick. I love that.
Cub looks great, which is no small feat since most of it occurs during the night. It’s pacing is extraordinary. It even manages to get good performances from children. The fact that this Belgium movie came from a first time director (Jonas Govaerts) is kind of shocking. It ends abruptly, maybe too abruptly for some, but also sets up a sequel that I am absolutely DYING to see. Fantastic Fest goes through a lot of horror films each year. Few of them really do all that much for me. Cub, however, is a total blast.