What A Tangled (and Scary) Web It Weaves


Director Samuel Bodin’s new horror film, Cobweb, which hits theaters July 21, offers something distinctly alluring and unique — a mood, a vibe, something eerie you can’t shake off, and it occupies every frame of the film. If Bodin was keen on creeping out audiences, he surely has succeeded here. Cobweb is as ethereal as it is bone-chilling fun. It’s scary, too, so feel free to feast on this mid-summer thriller with fervor.

Cobweb has everything going for it. An innocent boy feeling trapped, two tightly wound parents, and a creepy old house holding a mysterious secret inside. The tale is set around Halloween time, too, but even if screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) didn’t set the events in fall, my guess is that Cobweb would still delight. (On a side note: Why isn’t this film being released in October?)

Cobweb is one of the more inventive and well executed horror films to come around this year. It strikes a nice balance of chills, thrills, and other creepy delights, without resorting to overt measures to rattle the senses. Bodin leaves a lot of that to the audience, who no doubt will use their own vivid imagination to fill in some of the blanks here.

Coming from the producers of Barbarian and It, and starring Lizzy Caplan (Party Down, Fleishman Is in Trouble), Cleopatra Coleman, Antony Starr, and young Woody Norman in a brilliant performance, you’re in good hands with these folks. But you may be surprised at what you discover.

Not Your Average Horror Film

Cobweb movie 2023 with Lizzy Caplan

Director Samuel Bodin was reportedly so intrigued with Chris Thomas Devlin’s script that he wanted to create a fairy-tale universe in Cobweb. He succeeds at that for the most part, as the film occasionally feels as if we’ve dropped into a foreboding Grimms’ Fairy Tale where something devastating is about to happen.

Young Peter (Woody Norman) suddenly hears tapping behind the walls of his bedroom at night. He’s never heard that before; although his parents (Caplan and Starr in full chills mode) assure him that it’s just his imagination, Peter can’t quite shake it off. He has nightmares, too. But are they nightmares? Peter isn’t sure. Neither are we.

Related: Exclusive: Cobweb Director Samuel Bodin and Young Actor Woody Norman Deliver the Frights

The boy finds some solace at school in substitute teacher Miss Devine (Coleman), who senses something is off and is bold enough to head directly to Peter’s home and confront his mother, Carol. Caplan has a knack for playing deeply layered if not tormented characters. Let’s face it: she made Paramount+’s Fatal Attraction watchable. Here, she manages to take what the script gives her and add something unique. Something is off with Carol. She’s oddly overprotective of Peter.

Papa Mark (Starr) is more grounded that Carol, but there’s something icy there, too. Starr can’t quite hit the stellar beats Caplan does in her parental role, but he’s effective, nevertheless. We soon learn about a tragedy from the past—something that happened in the neighborhood. Could this be related to the tapping Peter hears in his bedroom? As the film flows toward its mid-point, Peter is confronted on all fronts. A bullying incident at school turns dire, and when Peter is confined to his home, he begins losing trust for his parents. How that plays out is a major twist in the film—a thrilling one no less and sends us into an action-packed, fright fest all the way through the ending.

Cobweb Thrills to the End

Cobweb movie 2023 with Lizzy Caplan

If you recall how shocked you felt watching Barbarian and how surprised you were by what you discovered along the way, Cobweb follows similar suit but manages to keep it fresh. Bodin’s use of lighting, and sometimes dimly lit scenes, pays off. To his credit, when we do finally discover what has been lurking behind the walls, the screenwriter and director never truly reveal the full form of what that is. That actually helps make Cobweb freakishly good.

Related: Horror Movies That Are Actually Scary

One could peck away at some of the film’s more obvious WTFs, where we’re supposed to suspend belief. For instance, it’s curious that a family of three would live in such a large house. Then again, maybe this family needs a big home to conceal a huge mystery. There’s also a bit of, “let’s just go with it,” when Miss Devine, a substitute teacher, seems to be lingering on at school longer than most subs would. These events take place over more than just a few days.

But these are minor points. By the time the film enters its final stage, and Peter realizes what truly is happening, it’s so shocking that you may find yourself on the edge of your seats. It’s rare that a horror film captures that sensation these days. Audiences have been incredibly desensitized with every Insidious and Saw film that hits the screen. The film’s powerful ending will surely generate buzz as Bodin leans into the psychological horror of things. Well done.

Cobweb is a thrilling delight. It’s interesting and frightening. And that’s the perfect web to find yourself captured in when watching a horror film. Cobweb, a Lionsgate release, opens in theaters July 21.

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