In my opinion, there can’t be enough movies about sad, bullied children going into the woods when they know they shouldn’t, because there’s a nightmarish legend called Kai stalking the lands.
Cub (or Welp) wears its many flaws on its fur. It isn’t an expensive film, nor one made with experienced players (what is it about this year’s horror-a-thon and directorial debuts?), but it’s far better than it looks on paper. Echoing the childhood abuse issues and dark fairytale motifs of Pan’s Labyrinth, this Belgian tale from Jonas Govaerts doesn’t waste any time with the unpleasantries. On a woodland retreat, twelve-year old cub scout Sam (Maurice Luijten) is bullied daily by his fellow scouts, and even his scoutmaster Peter (Stef Aerts). Once the asshole kids cause the group to get lost in the mountains, Sam buggers off and runs into a creepy-looking feral boy he identifies as the urban legend werewolf Kai.
Up until that moment, it’s some slow, bleak Lord of the Flies shit, but after this first-act twist, it’s some bleak, disturbing, melancholic shit – including the taboo of killing children without a shred of humour or facetiousness. It’s an engaging story the further it plays out, and I appreciate seeing this kind of fable from a child’s point of view. But the film suffers from dreadful pacing in its first half, awkward tension build-ups, and one or two wooden performances. Despite this, on balance, it’s an enjoyably creepy and atmospheric slasher.