Friday 11 August 2023

REVIEW: Cobweb (2023) - Starring Lizzy Caplan, Woody Norman, Cleopatra Coleman and Antony Starr

Review by Jon Donnis
"Cobweb," directed by Samuel Bodin in his directorial debut and written by Chris Thomas Devlin, is a chilling and creepy 2023 American horror film that delves into the eerie and unsettling realms of a young boy's tormented existence. With a standout cast and an intriguing plot, the film manages to weave together psychological horror and supernatural elements in a way that should keep you on the edge of your seat.

Lizzy Caplan delivers a strong performance as Carol, a mother grappling with her son's disturbing experiences. Antony Starr's portrayal of Mark, the emotionally distant and potentially abusive father, adds depth to the family dynamics. Cleopatra Coleman as Miss Devine and Woody Norman as the tormented young boy Peter round out the cast with exceptional performances that anchor the story in a sense of unease.

The plot revolves around Peter, a socially isolated 12-year-old who suffers from bullying at school and parental neglect at home. Peter's life takes a haunting turn when he becomes entangled with an enigmatic presence named Sarah, who claims to be trapped within the walls of his home. The film masterfully builds tension as the lines blur between Peter's imagination and a sinister reality.

The juxtaposition of Peter's bleak reality with the mysterious tapping sounds and unsettling occurrences creates a truly creepy atmosphere that seeps into every scene. The narrative takes a sinister twist as Peter's interactions with Sarah escalate, revealing a disturbing backstory that implicates his parents in the disappearance of a young girl years ago. The film's pacing is skilfully handled, gradually ramping up the dread and horror as Peter's mental state deteriorates.

One of the film's strengths lies in its ability to tap into primal fears, the fear of the unknown, the fragility of familial relationships, and the blurred lines between reality and delusion. As Peter's relationship with Sarah intensifies, Cleopatra Coleman's performance as Miss Devine acts as a grounding force, bringing an element of empathy and concern to the story.

"Cobweb" doesn't rely on too many jump scares or gore; instead, it employs psychological terror to immerse the audience in Peter's unsettling world. The film's climax, set against the backdrop of Halloween Night, delivers a heart-pounding sequence that challenges the audience's perceptions and leaves them with lingering questions.

Samuel Bodin's directorial debut showcases a keen understanding of horror's nuances, effectively using visual and auditory cues to create an unsettling atmosphere. Chris Thomas Devlin's screenplay expertly balances supernatural elements with the psychological turmoil of the characters, resulting in a thought-provoking and genuinely terrifying experience.

The Good
I really enjoyed this film; at about 82 minutes it is the perfect length for a horror film. Despite the short length, the film never feels rushed. Since this is a supernatural horror film, you know that more is going on than first seems, and the way the film uses the parents is really impressive, you are never too sure if they are evil abusive parents, or just over protective ones, due to what they know.

I have tried not to spoil the main plot points, and you are probably wondering why the film is called Cobweb, when I have yet to mention spiders. Now there are no giant spiders in the film, a few small ones that don't really affect the plot, it is more towards the final scene that you will understand the name of the film.

I am so used to seeing Antony Starr as Homelander that I hardly recognised him at first with dark hair. But the real star of the film is Woody Norman as the young boy Peter. He puts in a great performance, he will pull just enough sympathy from you the viewer, without ever becoming annoying or unlikeable.

The Bad
Ok, I have to do this, and I hate to, but it must be said, when the film gets towards the climax, everything gets very dark, I understand it is a low budget, so you use the dark to hide some effects, but it is so dark, like way too dark that you can barely see what is going on. You know there is going to be a climax with the Sarah character, and they really do leave it to nearly the very end before you get a clear shot of her, but in the dark I feel like perhaps it is not enough of a reveal to please most viewers.

With that said, that is probably my only complaint about the film. Everything else I thought was great, and I do understand why low budget films have to use the dark, but it is frustrating as up until that point I was so invested.

"Cobweb" is a gripping and atmospheric horror film that leaves a lasting impression. With an outstanding cast, an intricate plot, and a skilful blend of psychological horror and supernatural elements, the film takes audiences on a haunting journey into the depths of darkness. It's a testament to the genre's potential for exploring not just external terrors, but the demons that lurk within the human psyche. There is potential for a sequel, if they decide to go that way.

I enjoyed the film, and highly recommend it to horror fans everywhere that prefer less of the gratuitous gore and jump scares, and more of a slow build full of tension.

I score Cobweb a solid 8.5/10

Out now on digital
Apple TV -
And you can pre-order on DVD on Amazon -