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Friday, February 23, 2024

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“COBWEB”

THE STORY – Eight-year-old Peter is plagued by a mysterious, constant tap from inside his bedroom wall – a tapping that his parents insist is all in his imagination. As Peter’s fear intensifies, he believes his parents could be hiding a terrible, dangerous secret and questions their trust.

THE CAST – Woody Norman, Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr, Cleopatra Coleman & Luke Busey

THE TEAM – Samuel Bodin (Director) & Chris Thomas Devlin (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 88 Minutes


As much as many of us wouldn’t like to admit it, sometimes the things that scare us the most have haunted us since childhood. It’s not easy to put fears that accompany the dark, bumps in the night, and intimidating authority figures behind us. “Cobweb,” the new horror film from Samuel Bodin, plays on many of those anxieties. In fact, it’s practically an updated, grown-up version of the fables and fairy tales that served as cautionary tales to many in their youth.

Peter (Woody Norman) is a young boy going through a tough time. He has no friends, the bullies at school will not leave him alone, and, oh yeah, he keeps hearing mysterious sounds and voices through his walls at night. His parents (Lizzy Caplan and Antony Starr) are of no help, shutting down his fears as typical of an active imagination. It’s up to Peter to uncover what or who is hidden in his own home.

Norman first came to the attention of many filmgoers with his astounding performance in Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon” back in 2021. Critics and audiences were blown away by his naturalistic abilities and unbelievably accurate American accent. In fact, a common refrain amongst viewers was their surprise at learning that the young actor was actually born in England. In “Cobweb,” both gifts are on full display. Norman carries the film as its central character Peter, never once coming across as cloying or irritating as so many child performances do. He’s given many scenes that require him to display different levels of fright, and he’s able to find variance in all these scary moments. It’s also essential that the audience is on board with his discoveries, as many of the story’s twists and turns are reliant on situating oneself in a childlike perspective. Norman serves as a steady protagonist that audiences of all ages can relate to.

Lizzy Caplan plays Peter’s mother, Carol, and if Norman is to be praised for his realistic performance, Caplan should be commended for exactly the opposite. She delivers the kind of hysterical, nigh-camp performance that has served to make mediocre horror films more interesting throughout Hollywood’s history. Whether she’s seen in a nightmare with a terrifying grin on her face or hilariously slamming the door shut in the face of innocent trick-or-treaters, she’s a delight in every moment. Antony Starr doesn’t have the same opportunities for compelling ridiculousness as Mark, the family’s patriarch. Instead, his character is saddled with several bizarrely corny lines of dialogue that he isn’t fully able to sell, even in a broad “dad joke” type of way. He’s much better in scenes where he’s meant to play terrifying and intimidating.

As a piece of writing, “Cobweb” fully relies on Peter’s discoveries to propel the plot forward. As such, the film is entirely within the young boy’s perspective, which can perhaps explain some of the odd dialogue and seemingly obvious trajectory of the story. Peter’s parents, in particular, have some lines and character decisions that are simply weird. These confusing moments may be meant to keep the audience feeling off balance, as Peter surely is, but they merely distract rather than intrigue. In fact, much of the film’s dialogue sounds as if it were written by a child, which, again, might be the point.

The film’s scary moments are far more effective than its dramatic ones. One nightmare sequence is particularly effective, using slightly-off images of Peter’s waking world to sell his terror entirely. And throughout the film, the well-framed cinematography only adds to the scare factor. The final act is less frightening once certain revelations are brought to light, and the execution is less terrifying than the implications that come before it. The uncertain conclusion is a bit of a letdown, which is only underlined by the film’s sudden ending. But the general tone and spooky world of “Cobweb” will likely be enough for horror fans to feel satisfied with their time.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Led by a stellar child performance from Woody Norman, "Cobweb" works best when leaning on its mysterious tone and scares that play upon common childhood fears.

THE BAD - The plot speeds towards an ending that feels far too hasty and inconclusive based on what came before. While it may be intentional, given the film's protagonist, much of the dialogue is distractingly childlike, even for the adult characters.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Led by a stellar child performance from Woody Norman, "Cobweb" works best when leaning on its mysterious tone and scares that play upon common childhood fears.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The plot speeds towards an ending that feels far too hasty and inconclusive based on what came before. While it may be intentional, given the film's protagonist, much of the dialogue is distractingly childlike, even for the adult characters.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"COBWEB"