‘Cobweb’ Review: Gets Stuck in The Familiar but Has Some Twisted Scares

Kevin Taft reviews Cobweb, a familiar horror film that manages to build toward enough scary moments to keep it interesting and spooky.
User Rating: 6.5

The new horror film Cobweb doesn’t rewrite the haunted house genre in any way. With its stylish cinematography, brooding set design, Halloween setting, and bullied kid main character that hears voices no one believes, we’ve sort of seen this all before. But after an hour-long set-up which – to be fair – is mildly compelling, the movie suddenly shifts from domestic thriller to a full-on-balls-to-the-wall horror film.

Directed by Samuel Bodin and starring Lizzy Caplan (Party Down, Masters of Sex), this relatively simple tale concerns Peter (Woody Norman), an eight-year-old-boy who not only suffers bullies at school but is victim to a mysterious knocking coming from inside his bedroom wall. When the knocking evolves into a little girl’s voice, Peter expectedly starts to come unglued.

As is the case with horror films such as this, Peter’s parents (played by Caplan and The Boys’ Antony Starr) don’t believe he’s really hearing voices and grow increasingly annoyed with his claims. The mom, Carol, is a bit of a weirdo herself, speaking in a tempered voice, while the dad, Mark, is just an asshole. When Peter gets in trouble at school for defending himself, he even gets locked in the basement – chained to the floor so he can’t try and escape his punishment.

The one hope he has is his new substitute teacher Miss Devine (Cleopatra Coleman), who grows increasingly concerned about Peter, especially after he draws a picture of himself hiding in his bed with the words, “Help Me,” above it. But alas, Mom and Dad aren’t having any of it and get mad at the kid for – well – acting like a kid.

However, around the end of act two, the narrative steers the film in another direction. Up until this point, Cobweb plays mostly as a creepy domestic drama, with our fear only coming out of what Peter’s parents are capable of. But in the last twenty-five minutes or so, things get much worse for Peter, leading to a lot of horror movie fun for the audience.

Bodin does craft a handsome-looking film even when none of it feels fresh or new. The set design is excellent, and the actors are all convincing – especially Norman, who doesn’t fall into any cute kid trappings. Caplan is a bit of an odd duck here. Her character is supposed to be a little strange (I guess?), and her performance is definitely on the “what’s with her?” side. Some people will like it, some won’t, but it kinda/sorta works in relation to the story.

But it’s once things start scurrying in the night that Cobweb manifests some genuinely suspenseful sequences and some really fun visuals. It’s also pretty gruesome, with great practical creature effects and terrific sound design.

Cobweb isn’t going to be remembered as one of the greats, but it’s a decent scare fest that will satiate horror fans until the next scary movie comes out.

Cobweb Opens Exclusively in Theaters on July 21, 2023.

6.5
Fair
Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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