Movie Review – Cobweb

Principal Cast : Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr, Cleopatra Coleman, Woody Norman, Luke Busey, Aleksandra Dragova, Debra Wilson.
Synopsis: An eight-year-old boy tries to investigate the mysterious knocking sounds that are coming from inside the walls of his house, unveiling a dark secret that his sinister parents have kept hidden from him.


Seductively creepy low-budget horror flick Cobweb should be on everyone’s radar in 2023. Infused with a skin-prickling vibe akin to Ari Aster’s Hereditary, a smidgen of James Wan’s Malignant, and the best of Insidious, Cobweb is an at-times frightening slow-burn character piece that elevates the genre – until it doesn’t. Sadly, Cobweb’s final twenty minutes succumb to generic modern-horror jumpscares and bloodlust, caving into the populist mantra of making a film to satisfy the horror fans in a more mainstream manner, but on the whole it’s still a thoroughly entertaining piece of subgenre filmmaking that will elicit more than a few screams.

Young lad Peter (Woody Norman) lives with his parents Carol (Lizzy Caplan) and Mark (Antony Starr), in a creepy run-down house on a nondescript street. Peter attends the local school, where he encounters substitute teacher Miss Devine (Cleopatra Coleman), and is the object of cruelty by the class bully, Brian (Luke Busey). One evening, Peter hears a knocking coming from within his bedroom wall, and an ephemeral girls voice speaking to him. Peter is the only one who can hear her, although his change in behaviour sets off in his stern mother and frustrated father a series of unexplainable events that will tear his family apart.

Ghosts in the walls? Okay, you’ve got me hooked. Spooky childlike voice from “the beyond”? Yep, satisfactory. Creepy old wooden house where every footstep, door opening or bodily movement sounds like a thunderclap in a hugely aggressive surround sound mix? Again, I’m there. There’s a satisfying benign-ness to Cobweb’s slow-burn character work, as urbane and nondescript as the setting is the house, poor Peter and the appearance of the spectral monster all bely the absolute chilling nature of the plot’s unfortunately all-too-confusing resolution. This is one of those films where the idea of the plot if far better than the payoff, more’s the pity.

Scripted by Chris Thoams Devlin, who also wrote 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cobweb had the potential to be really effective with its creepy aesthetic, up until the monster is unleashed and all hell breaks loose in the final act. Giving the story the viewpoint of a young boy, effectively a character powerless within the context of both his family situation but also against a far more powerful supernatural entity, is an easy “in” to an idea that a creepy spirity haunts the walls of a house. The way Devlin’s script unwraps the mystery of how the voice in the walls relates to Peter’s parents, who quickly become more and more unhinged, is very effective, Director Samuel Bodin handles the weird quiet between action with appropriate surety, although the film does tend to rely heavily on genre tropes more than I would have liked. Rather, the film’s strength is young Woody Norman, who as Peter is a solid child actor despite the often generic dialogue. At times the film resembles aspects of Scott Derrickson’s The Black Phone, although it’s more a revenge story than a serial-killer story, and while Norman’s co-stars in Lizzy Caplan (who plays the world’s worst mother in this film) and Antony Starr (I’ll never look at rat poison the same way again) may outshine him in sheer celebrity status, the young actor delivers the good when asked.

Unfortunately, the film’s third act – more specifically the last fifteen or twenty minutes – kinda hobble the overall feeling that Cobweb is really good. Disappointingly, the reveal of the ghost in the walls and its relationship to the rest of the cast is clumsily handled compared to the careful buildup preceding it, and the insertion of some random kids to become victims to a bloodthirsty spirit (can you say The Woman In Black?) doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the film. However, some of the kills are cool I guess, despite being jarringly shoehorned into the finale. Thankfully, the film’s eerie opening two thirds is backed up by a quite chilling denouement, a really unsettling final frame (stick around through the end credits too) and one of the better downbeat endings in recent memory.

In spite of this, Cobweb still comes highly recommended for horror fans, and despite an obviously low budget is effective and creepy in all the right ways (depending on your tolerance for characters making typically dumb horror movie decisions); I really had a good time with it in spite of my aforementioned caveats, and if you get the opportunity to check it out I think you’ll have a great time. Cobweb also marks Samuel Bodin as a director to watch.


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