Debut director Jonas Govaerts’ Belgium scout horror melds Predator (1987), Stand By Me (1986) with a dash of Argento but remains unique in a genre flooded with revamps, sequels and hack jobs.
Even though Cub is primarily a horror due to its gruelling suspense sequences, death scenes, dread and marketing, rich characters and well harnessed drama make it much more than a generic genre entry. Decent performances and striking cinematography bolster Cub but it is mired by a slow pace and hinges on the ridiculous with outlandish set-pieces in the latter half and a pattern but well-crafted finale.
The plot follows temperamental twelve year Sam (Maurice Luijten) on a forest camping trip with his troupe: Sam is the black sheep with a rebellious streak, picked on by fellow cubs and immature co-leader Peter (Stef Aerts).
Cub refreshingly explores its characters in detail, unveiling meticulous conflicts and convincing drama within the pack. The type of characters conjured for killing in lesser genre efforts are here refreshingly graced with complexes, substance and back stories. Both the directing and editing are also laudable with brilliantly executed chase sequences but Cub doesn’t quite manage to terrify.
Sitting awkwardly between genres, it sacrifices plot progression for character growth and, despite its refined drama, fails to conjure the level of dread required to consistently grip throughout.
As compelling relationships unfurl in the form of sexual tension between scout-leaders and a lamentable head’s relationship with Sam, action is upped for the final act. The combination of feral horror, quirky Saw-like traps and juvenile scrapping doesn’t always gel but Cub remains unique and often edgy with fantastic acting and terse drama.
The slow burning set up stalls the story somewhat but strengthens the characters. Meanwhile gruelling death scenes and a haunting score (by The Guest composer Steve Moore) combine to unnerve where required and provides an underlying sense of foreboding throughout despite lacking giant scares.