Cub Review

Welp is the original Flemish title for this gruesome Belgium horror film, and more fittingly the noise you’re likely to make on more than one occasion as fiendish director Jonas Govaerts grimly puts the audience through the ringer. Cub’s setting is familiar – the woods – and as with many horror films, a bunch of innocents are thrown in and stalked by a mysterious, savage force seemingly at one with the nature around them. Yet Cub has enough psychological insight and genuinely shocking moments to make this little film into one of the year’s most unmissable films, horror or otherwise.

We’re aligned, of course, with the outside; in this case, over-imaginative, bullied Sam (Maurice Luijten), member of a scout trip off on a camping trip. Sam almost misses the trip altogether, in a hazily filmed panic that emphasises the hand fate is already dealing this unfortunate boy. Most of the kids are cruel to Sam, but their mockery is nothing compared to the cruelty of one of the troupe leaders, Peter (Stef Aerts), who has no time for Sam’s lack of focus or disobedience, mostly because he wants to indulge those faults in his own life, preferring to flirt with the female leader, Jasmijn (Evelien Bosmans).

The echoes of Friday the 13th are already no doubt sounding alarm bells, but Govaerts and co-writer Roel Mondelaers tie Sam’s isolated disaffection for the world in the twisted mirror the woods provides for him – a masked figure called Kai (Gill Eeckelaert). To say more about where the film takes these two boys and their odd kinship would spoil things, but Cub keeps surprising even when you’re sure you’ve got its number.

Even more impressively, the film is completely ruthless, with one absolutely shocking scene definitely never to be repeated in a Hollywood remake. Cub isn’t afraid of clichés, sure, but it’s also not afraid of shattering them. After a slow start, the grim grind of the forest’s traps and puzzles starts to ensnare the characters, and Govaerts maintains a gripping mixture of revelation and mystery that keeps the audience on their toes throughout.

If the acting doesn’t rise beyond passable, that’s really irrelevant in a film that treats even the foremost characters as figures in a game manipulated by some seemingly higher power. It’s this blend of grim reality and unexplained ethereality that makes Cub a genuinely unshakable experience, and one for horror aficionados to scout out for a viewing as soon as possible.

Cub is in selected cinemas and available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray now.

About The Author

Born in Birmingham and now living in London, David took a love of cinema through two degrees, capping them off with a dissertation on Julianne Moore. (He likes to think he helped her win the Oscar.) He currently works in commercial advertising at Hearst UK and watches as many films as he can in his spare time. You can frequently find him beholden to the visage of Jessica Chastain.

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