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6 best Belgian horror films
With Halloween tomorrow, feel free to ring in the holiday at the witching hour with one of Belgium’s best contributions to the horror genre.
The top spot goes to Welp (2014, English title: Cub), a horror-meets-adventure story by Flemish director Jonas Govaerts in cinemas now. One of the first true horror films to come out of Belgium in a while, Welp is set deep in the woods of Wallonia where lonely, odd-boy-out Sam (pictured) is on a camping trip with his scout troop. Shunned and taunted by his peers, Sam encounters a feral, mud-face boy, and the camp quickly becomes a blood bath.
If intense, pillow-burrowing brutality is not your thing (including one instance against a dog), then Welp is probably not for you. But if you like dark, well-paced dramas and can tolerate the violence, Welp is as good a film as you’ll find on the big screen this Halloween. Read The Bulletin’s full review of the film here.
2. Rabid Grannies
With a name like that, how could this film not come in at number two?
In Rabid Grannies (1988, original title: Les Mémés Cannibales), directed by Emmanuel Kervyn, the title tells it all: Two aging sisters invite their beloved-if-greedy nieces and nephews to a birthday dinner, when, through a curse from a scorned, devil-worshipping nephew, the two aunties start eating their guests.
While not regarded as a fine example of cinematic art, this story is nothing but camp, and anyone that loves the grotesque hilarity of low-budget horror-for-horror’s-sake will certainly become enamoured.
3. Daughters of Darkness
Daughters of Darkness (1971, original title: Les lèvres rouges) was a huge cult success in Europe and the US when it came out in the early 1970s. Directed by Harry Kümel, it’s a familiar setup: newly weds on their honeymoon, a mysterious countess, a large, spooky seaside hotel. Think Rocky Horror Picture Show but replace musical transvestites with lesbian vampires.
Despite its international appeal, , there is something quintessentially Belgian about the film in its fantastic surrealism and the wide use of Belgium’s mercurial landscape, filmed at the Thermae Palace and the Astoria Hotels in Ostend and Brussels, respectively.
If you like Kümel’s work in Daughters of Darkness, try his film Malpertius, a fantasy-horror film staring Orson Welles.
Known as The Ordeal in English, Calvaire (2004) tells the story of struggling performer Marc who, when his van breaks down, ends up in the “Bates Motel” of Wallonia. Part Psycho, part Texas Chainsaw Massacre, part Misery, this psychological horror film from Fabrice Du Welz (called in the film’s trailer “Europe’s Master of Horror”) was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and won a Grand Prize at the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival.
As if the idea of a child lost after a catastrophic tsunami was not horrific enough, in Vinyan (2008), Fabrice Du Welz decides to send the child’s desperate parents into the jungles of Thailand and Burma in search of their son, where they find themselves immersed in dark magic and spirits that lead them off their path.
6. Special mention: Borgman
While technically a Dutch film, Borgman (2013) deserves an honourable mention here, as its main character is Flemish actor Jan Bijvoet. Unlike many of its genre peers, Borgman manages to be both delightfully horrific and a well-paced, suspense-driven story.
Called by Rotten Tomatoes a “refreshingly original experiment in off-kilter terror,” Borgman was nominated for a Palm d’Or in Cannes and was The Netherlands’ pick for its entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards (although it was not selected for nomination).
Photo: Maurice Luijten as Sam discovers the truth in campfire stories in Jonas Govaerts' Welp (2014)