(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?
IN MOVING PICTURES
- Deep in the putrid bowels of the earth, two lost boys – Sam and Kai – battle for survival.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
- WELP (aka CUB) is available in the UK on DVD and Amazon Video.
- WELP is distributed in the UK by the lovely folk at Altitude Film Entertainment. We like their mix of arthouse (think MOONLIGHT and I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO) with genre movies (think GREEN ROOM and ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE).
- There’s a North American blu-ray from Artsploitation Films if you can.
- In pre-production, WELP was promoted as a crowd-funding project: “BUY A TRAP, KILL A CUB!” Reassuringly, it’s indiegogo campaign wasn’t successful… See here what you could have won.
- 2016 documentary FORGOTTEN SCARES offers a retrospective of the Flemish horror movie which has a grander legacy than WELP alone.
- FLANDERS TODAY gives good interview with Jonas Govaerts.
Featured images: WELP (2014).