Cobweb Review: Good Performances, Haunting Atmospheric Tone And A Conclusion That Unravels It All

In the vast realm of horror films, Cobweb emerges as a new addition inviting audiences into a world where appearances deceive and secrets hide beneath the surface. Directed by Samuel Bodin and written by Chris Thomas Devlin, and starring Lizzy Caplan, Woody Norman, Antony Starr and Cleopatra Coleman, the movie’s strengths lie in the established atmosphere of intrigue and suspense. However, it can’t sustain that as it grapples with missed opportunities and a lackluster conclusion that fails to bring closure to its narrative. 

Cobweb starts with Peter (Norman) waking up from a nightmare and he hears noises in his bedroom walls. He runs over to the wall and knocks on it — and it knocks back. His mother Carol (Caplan) bursts into the room to find out what’s going on but ends up tucking him in to go back to bed. The next night he hears the voice of a young girl asking for help getting out of the house walls. Before Peter can engage the voice, his father Mark (Starr) conveniently comes into the room and assures him everything he experienced is in his imagination.  

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The next day, Peter creates a drawing at school that replicates what happened in his room the night before. His teacher Miss Divine (Coleman) sees it and becomes concerned enough to visit his home; where the conversation between Miss Divine and Carol is unsuccessful. After this encounter, Miss Divine is convinced something is amiss but doesn’t pry further. When she is gone, Peter is confronted about the drawing and is again gaslit into believing what he experienced isn’t real, and he should let it go. When the voice tells the boy to defend himself against school bullies, it exposes a side of his parents that Peter has never seen, causing him to question reality, and whether the voice in the walls is real and malevolent.

Cobweb sits in the same vein as Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil and David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation. The modern gothic elements introduce a twisted reality where nothing is as it seems as the underlying feeling of dread keeps the viewer engaged. Why are these people so desperate to hide what’s in the walls? The intrigue is held together by Starr’s and Caplan’s villainous performances that serve Devlin’s script well. Additionally, the film incorporates moments of setup and payoff skillfully (cinnamon is very important to the story) that enhances the overall viewing experience.

I liked Cobweb more than the headline suggests, but the conclusion fails to fully deliver a proper solution fitting for all the tense buildup that came before it. It comes off as one of those endings that feels like the production ran out of money and they had to think of something fast not to go over budget. It just acts as just another backdoor pilot to a sequel. It’s OK to have a stand-alone ending that isn’t connected to anything else. I promise! 

While that cop-out ending unravels the narrative, up until then the movie benefits from strong performances and a haunting atmospheric tone that made me yearn for more horror that explores the darker corners of the human psyche. It’s the most flexible genre when it comes to taking risks, and Boudin and Devlin are at least trying to do something different. Too bad this is a movie that most people will overlook, as this small-budget horror is smack in the middle of the Barbie and Oppenheimer opening weekend. 

Title: Cobweb
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release date: July 21, 2023
Director: Samuel Bodin
Screenwriter: Chris Thomas Devlin
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Woody Norman, Antony Starr, Cleopatra Coleman
Rating: R
Running time: 1 hr 28 min

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