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Review: Cub (Welp)


Belgian horror, Cub (aka Welp), proudly wears its genre influences on its sleeve, yet fails to deliver the suspense and scares expected - instead writer-director Jonas Govaerts opts for increasingly silly and half-baked plotting in this messy child-fronted genre picture.

Cub sees a group of boy scouts stalked by a feral creature in the Belgian woods. Excluded twelve-year old Sam (Maurice Luijten) is the only member of the group that takes the urban legend of Kai seriously, however, the others catch-on when the body-count starts to mount.

From its genre references to Suspiria and more blatantly, Cabin in the Woods, Govaerts' love for horror is evident - and this passion partly results in Cub being as unwieldy as it is. Given the concept one might presume that Cub will take a straight-forward stalk and slash narrative, but Govaerts opts for something more ambitious, yet less effective. With plot elements ranging from mechanical contraptions operating within the woods, aggressive locals, childhood traumas, feral creatures, and ghoulish giants - there's simply too much going on in this haphazard tale.

There's nonetheless great potential lurking within Cub and its multitude of ideas - and perhaps had it gone down the killer in the woods angle whilst incorporating some surprises (like the mechanical traps) it would likely have been more effective. Govaerts does manage to craft a satisfyingly spooky atmosphere and there's some solid cinematography from Nicolas Karakatsanis, exploring the darkened corners of the evocative woodland setting.

Govaerts screenplay (which he co-writes with Roel Mondelaers) also fails to add any depth to its many characters. Twelve year old Sam is portrayed as a troubled soul with a difficult home life, but some of the acts he commits - especially under the influence of Kai - destroy any compassion that we originally had for the character. The fellow Scouts fail to establish any character beyond basic caricatures of the bully, the nerdy one, etc., whilst the adult characters prove entirely forgettable genre cut-outs and are filled with similar tropes to the horny Summer camp leader protagonists from the likes of Friday the 13th.

Questionable moments featuring animal cruelty and a predictable attempt at a plot twist in the final moments only hamper the little that was effective within Cub, whilst adding to the mass of conflicted and half-baked plot angles. Belgium isn't a country known for its horror output (although 2008 gem Linkeroever is worth watching) and it is likely to stay that way after the convoluted and generally non-enjoyable Cub.

★★

Director: Jonas Govaerts
Stars: Maurice Luijten, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt
Release: 31st July 2015

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