" the characters are all interesting with no weak link - not even the token girl"

Cub concerns Sam, a member of a Belgian scout troop venturing out into the woods of France with three of the least responsible adults to ever lead a scout troop into almost certain death.

They stray from the designated camping ground and into the forest lair of a mysterious man and a feral child in a mask made of tree bark, which is a fantastically creepy piece of design. The weirdos have an unclear connection and have set an elaborate array of traps to capture and/or kill anyone who dares walk amongst the trees.

This is more or less the extent of the plot. There’s a typical “Lord of the Flies” dynamic amongst the kids, with Sam being the token ‘outsider’ with a nerdy friend who are picked on by a bully on a power trip. Sam seeks out and befriends the feral child at first, which has the potential to lead the plot in an interesting direction, but the story is basically just a ticking clock to the slaughter. Once this kicks in its inventive but feels inconsequential and is actually a little ridiculous in retrospect.

But the characters are all interesting with no weak link - not even the token girl. The villain, though terribly underdeveloped, is creepy and monstrous enough to be an engaging presence. The feral child is a really interesting thread – it’s not clear if he exists separately to the killer or as some sort of minion of his since he clearly has an animalistic level of intelligence - but unfortunately this isn’t explored enough and doesn’t really amount to much of anything.

So, the crux of the problem: I was on board to enjoy this even though it does drag a little. The premise is solid. The maze of traps throughout the forest makes for an interesting and tense situation. The characters are all interesting in their own way, in fact you could easily have made a drama out of the group dynamic. But sadly the end ruins it.

This film feels very strange to me. By about halfway everything seems good: strong characters, intriguing mystery, a terrifying villain, some clever kills, and then it starts to drag. It wasn’t clear where it’s going.

There’s a fine line between artistic and absolute mess and there’s an even finer line between meaningful and nonsensical. I get the impression the filmmakers think they are saying something with the ending but they produce a meaningless mess.

I really wanted to like Cub, but can’t bring myself to forgive its lackluster finale.