Welp AKA Cub is a film full of familiar horror movie tropes. There’s a large group of people (read = potential victims) setting up camp in the middle of the woods. There are lethal booby traps. And there’s an urban legend that may turn out to be more than just a campfire ghost story. Throw in a sprinkle of sexual tension, a dash of bulling, and a run-in with a couple of antagonistic locals and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a film with nothing new to offer. But you’d be wrong.
Welp takes all of these ingredients and cooks up one hell of a fun horror movie. Indeed, part of the fun is knowing how things are going to play out. Most genre fans will stay a few scenes ahead of the action, but that doesn’t detract from the fun as you see the little touches that have been added to freshen everything up.
Let me very briefly summarise the plot. Sam (played by Maurice Luijten, who gives a fantastic performance) is a boy with a turbulent past. This is alluded to in one or two conversations between the pack leaders. He’s also the apparent owner of an overactive imagination. When he hears about a feral child who has been known to make people disappear in the woods he is more intrigued than frightened. That intrigue grows when Sam actually sees the young wild child. It soon becomes clear that the two have something in common. But is that something just youthful curiosity, or is it something darker?
Director Jonas Govaerts has been honing his skills over the years on a number of shorts and TV episodes, and this is the pay off. His feature debut shows no lack of confidence, as characters are quickly sketched out, the simple premise is set up, and the bloodshed begins. Helped by a capable cast, in turn making the characters either likable or at least memorable, Covaerts uses the opening third of the movie to get up to speed and then just keeps things hurtling along towards an enormously satisfying finale. You may get a feeling of deja vu throughout, but that’s often forgotten about once you’re dragged through another tense scene that involves one or two characters you’re actually hoping to see come out of the whole thing unscathed.
There’s also some wonderful imagery throughout, be it the wild child biding his time amongst the trees or some of the more elaborate structures hidden within the woods, and the tone moves, slowly but surely, from light to dark to pitch black. Animal lovers beware when things get dark – one scene that almost serves as the tipping point for the entire movie may well leave you in some distress.
Reverential and knowing without being slavish or smug, Welp is a real treat for horror fans.
DIRECTOR: JONAS GOVAERTS
WRITER: ROEL MONDELAERS, JONAS COVAERTS
STARS: MAURICE LUIJTEN, EVELIEN BOSMANS, TITUS DE VOOGDT, STEF AERTS, JAN HAMMENECKER, GILL EECKELAERT
RUNTIME: 84 MINS APPROX