WELP (aka CUB)

(2014) 1hr 24min

Eager to please its 1980s forbears, Jonas Govaerts’ pre-teen backwoods slasher WELP (aka CUB) is a gleeful pick ‘n mix potpourri of THE BURNING (cue killer in the countryside) via THE GOONIES (cue nostalgia-tinged action adventure). Naturally enough, it struggles trying to juggle the two but has flashes of brilliance along the way.

Sam (Maurice Luijten) is a twelve year old outcast who comes of age on a barely organised cub scout camping expedition. As we learn about Sam’s disturbed past, we get some thinly realised relationships with the other cubs, some discomforting bullying and a dangerous but beguiling friendship with the mysterious feral boy Kai (Gill Eeckelaert).

Befitting his poster-boy status, woodland wildchild Kai is an iconic creation. Masked and muted to the point of madness, he sniffs and snuffles his way into our nightmares. Kai is that all-too rare thing in modern horror: a beautifully drawn and intriguing monster. He has such onscreen potential that his servitude to a murderous hulk – named The Poacher (Jan Hammenecker) in the final credits – is a slight disappointment. However, it is the latter’s subterranean hell of saws and switches that triggers the plentiful carnage and, ultimately, seals Sam’s fate.

Propelled by a synthtastic score, and sticking to a lean running time, WELP isn’t afraid to show us the money – the traps are sprung and blood starts to spurt. Be warned, WELP is prepared to do things to a tent full of cubs (and a dog in a bag) that will slacken your jaw. Its trim form possibly cuts too many corners and results in the film’s less satisfying elements: the bleeding obvious arseholeism of the bullies, rather disjointed storytelling and unresolved leaps of logic as characters take their different journeys through the woods.

Part throw-back, part myth-maker in its own right, WELP is a refreshing blast of horror from the Flemish-speaking bits of Belgium. Unsurprisingly, it seems to be resisting a US remake, but we could certainly do with a Kai-focused prequel. After all, perhaps some of us just have dark destinies?

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IN MOVING PICTURES

  • Deep in the putrid bowels of the earth, two lost boys – Sam and Kai – battle for survival.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Featured images: WELP (2014).

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