Setting a horror film during Halloween is both logical and bold. So many features have claimed the holiday as their own it seems impossible to break into the rotation. Yet the mood of the season helps sell the circumstances that help logically sell the danger to audiences. The new horror feature Cobweb hopes to leave its own mark on the genre. While it certainly features plenty of frights, it also struggles to land important aspects of its narrative.
Peter (Woody Norman) lives a typical life in a small town. The neighborhood kids are bullies. His parents (Lizzy Caplan & Anthony Starr) seem disconnected from reality. While his mother appears doting but frazzled, his father pushes and intimidates him. When Peter begins hearing voices through the wall, he has no one to discuss the strange sounds. However, when substitute Miss Devine (Cleopatra Coleman) begins to investigate Peter’s unease, a family secret begins to take shape.
When a film is on the precipice of greatness, it can become even more frustrating when it falls just short. Cobweb, from director Samuel Bodin, certainly qualifies as one of those features. While the feature showcases Bodin’s excellent instincts to unnerve, the narrative feels incomplete. At times, there are logic jumps that skip over minutes of potential dialogue. It’s as if scenes were shot and simply left on the cutting room floor to ensure the runtime did not get unruly. While we love a compact horror film, Cobweb does not explore enough of its zany premise.
The predictable nature of Cobweb hurts the narrative more than any aspect. Even when the scares surprise, and a monster emerges from the darkness, they are deployed in a somewhat rote fashion. The framing and blocking work, but the actual beats feel borrowed from other horror. Unfortunately, we have just seen these moments in other movies.
Still, a sequence toward the end of the feature remains one of the most exciting setpieces of the year in horror. It’s the closest to a Malignant or Barbarian we’ve had this year. The sequence in question is brutal beyond belief, and when it works, is truly scary. For those twenty-five minutes, Cobweb burns on all cylinders. However, the ending comes so abruptly, it upends the tension.
For the most part, the performances land. Norman does not have a lot of depth, but he plays fear very well. Caplan earns best-in-show praise, delivering a nervous energy that helps sell the final act. Starr intimidates throughout, further proving that his charisma can consume an entire project to his whims. That’s movie star talent that shines through.
Unfortunately, even though there’s considerable depth in the performance, the writing leaves him feeling one-note. Combined with the not-so-subtle aspects of the story and a predictable story, Cobweb cannot succeed at the level it should. It sets up for a sequel, and there’s potential for a franchise with stronger storytelling to exist. Ultimately, this version of Cobweb is a fun but disposable flick.