CUB **** Aka : Welp **** Belgium 2015 Dir: Jonas Govaerts. 84 mins

A disarming feature debut for co-writer / director Govaerts, this Belgian horror picture revolves around an Antwerp scout troupe in the French countryside, who learn from the scout leaders about “Kai”, a local boy who apparently turns into a werewolf by night and might be responsible for a spate of recent disappearances. Govaerts flirts with slasher movie conventions, from campfire singalongs to interrupted make-out sessions, dire warnings of “don’t go there” and people picked off while wandering in the woods.
The insistent retro electronic score is in the Carpenter / Goblin tradition, and one character even has a SUSPIRIA ringtone. It’s no ordinary slasher, however. The tone is non-flippant and serious, the violence sparing yet impactful. Instead of obvious scares or shocks, CUB finds unusually disturbing individual moments (notably the fate of “Zoltan”) and develops a considerable sense of menace around a fascinating antagonist, with whom our adolescent hero turns out to have a lot in common…just like any other pubescent boy. Deceptively understated for its first hour, it builds to a remarkably brutal and downbeat climax involving a dramatic pit fight and a reminder of the capacity for primal violence that lurks within us all, regardless of age.

Review by Steven West

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