It’s that time of the year again. Starbucks is bringing back the pumpkin spiced latte, shops are stocking Halloween decorations and most importantly, more and more scary movies are trickling into our local cinemas.
The film kickstarting our spooky movie season is Samuel Bodin’s Cobweb. The film opened in the US against ‘Barbenheimer’, which left this small, but frightful horror fairytale eating dust behind the two mammoth blockbusters. It’s a shame, because Cobweb really is quite good.
Peter (Woody Norman of The Last Voyage of the Demeter fame) is a shy and bullied kid. His parents, Mark and Carol (menacing Anthony Starr and Lizzy Caplan), are overprotective of him, thanks to a little girl going missing in their neighbourhood years prior.
One day, Peter begins to hear a strange knocking from inside the walls. Initially scared, Peter begins to communicate with whatever plagues their house, but the family’s fragile life is beginning to unravel as terrifying secrets come to light.
Surprisingly, Cobweb counts Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as its producers, but there are no jokes to be found here. Instead, Bodin opts for a more serious tone. Cobweb plays out like a horror fairytale, with a slightly dream-like quality to it.
The first hour of Cobweb is traditionally spooky and creepy. Bodin often suggests and implies rather than shows, which works in the film’s favour. Cobweb constantly plays around with relatable fears, such as the fear of the dark. We all still wake up in the night and stare at the corner in the room, wondering if there’s something staring back at us. It’s a fear that’s perhaps strongest in our younger years, but it never fully leaves us, making Cobweb all the more terrifying.
Bodin invests in the film’s mood and overall atmosphere over big scares or gore. There are small, sudden injections of cruelty such as when Peter pushes a bully down the stairs, resulting in a nasty broken leg.
In its last third, all bets are off. Cobweb transforms from an unnerving fairytale into a full-blown creature feature with a nasty side. The last act is completely unhinged in the best way possible and the reveals, while not necessarily entirely surprising, unfold deliciously.
The small cast are all impressive. Norman carries the film, but Starr and Caplan are both uniquely frightening. Starr especially is quietly terrifying, like a powder keg ready to blow at all times, while Caplan skillfully toes the line between traumatised and hysterical. Infinity Pool’s Cleopatra Coleman plays Peter’s teacher who takes a special interest in the withdrawn boy, and while her role is perhaps the thinnest, she brings a lot of security and warmth into the film, which otherwise is a little emotionally cold.
The ending of the film feels a tad predictable, but leaves you with much to think about. Cobweb might not be particularly original, but it’s thoroughly entertaining and at 88 minutes, it never overstays its welcome. Bodin masterfully navigates the script’s jarring tonal shifts and manages to keep it all under control, even when there is arguably too much going on.
Cobweb is small but mighty. This may very well become a new Halloween favourite with its strong performances, Drum & Lace’s ethereal score and a wild, relentless third act. A future horror classic.