Deformed Killer in the Woods. It’s a genre that has endured for decades within the horror world and has never fully gone away. There’s something primal about something or someone hunting you in the wilderness. It’s a good trope that has more often than not been treated terribly. We’ve all watched far too many films of this ilk, and many of them fail for a variety of reasons though usually it boils down to totally unlikable characters. Normally I steer clear of killer in the woods flicks, especially those made outside of the 80s, because it’s difficult to do it right. Or at least it’s easy to do them wrong. Being released by Artsploitation however I figured this one would be solid if it was good enough for them to release. It is.
Cub is a Belgian film about a group of boy scouts out for a weekend of roughing it in the woods. The leaders of the cub group are far younger than their American counter parts, the three “adults” look like they had just passed their teenage years by maybe one or two times around the sun. Sam, the lead character among the children, is an outcast. He’s always late, and always in trouble. The other kids don’t like him much but he’s the only who has seen Kai, a killer child in the woods. No one believes him of course and the hunt begins.
There are so many ways this movie could have stunk. The lead adults could have been totally unrelateable and unwatchable. They aren’t. I’m not going to say they’re fully fleshed out and 3 dimensional, none of the characters are, but they are believable and understandable. They don’t bicker constantly, but to argue in moments that call for it. They really seem like young people with too much responsibility, over their heads taking care of a large group of adolescent boys. The children themselves could have been unbearable but again, they act like kids act. Sure they have squabbles but they aren’t needlessly cruel. I’m not particularly scared by children so the idea of a killer kid doesn’t scare me but the kid does a good job of being creepy and dangerous. The killers are nothing out of the ordinary for films like this, but that also is what makes the move entertaining. I was expecting the film to be really extreme, and in places it delivers the grisly grue, but it isn’t “beat you over the head with savagery” extreme. This isn’t a torture porn flick.
The soundtrack, provided by Steve Moore (1/2 of the duo that forms the instrumental goblin-esque band Zombi), is really killer and synthy. It really sets the mood and adds a lot to the film. The cinematography is lush and moodily lit. Visually the film looks much better than most killer in the woods flicks. The film also has a short run time, about 85 minutes, so it doesn’t waste time either.
Cub gave me what I was looking for. A 100% pure horror film, that makes no missteps, and delivers the goods exactly as they should be. Another solid release by Artsploitation.