Cobweb (2023) | Review

Cobweb is one of those high-concept, broke-the-internet, buzz-worthy horror flicks—when its viral one-page script made the horror “Blacklist” as a hot unproduced Hollywood project, the powers-that-be were interested enough to make it a reality. Now it’s here and while it’s being released at a weird time (it’s now summer, and the tale is deeply Halloween-themed) Cobweb is definitely worth an hour and a half of entanglement.

The storyline is reminiscent of The Babadook and The Black Phone, with a touch of Barbarian. Our protagonist is a friendless, pallid boy called Peter (Woody Norman) who lives with his overprotective and overbearing parents, Mark (Antony Starr) and Carol (Lizzy Caplan), in a ramshackle house in a dark, desolate neighborhood. It’s the same neighborhood where young trick-or-treaters have been disappearing, leaving nothing behind but “Have You Seen Me?” posters as clues.

When Peter isn’t holed up in his bedroom drawing pictures, he’s at school being bullied. When a new teacher, Miss Devine (Cleopatra Coleman), takes an interest in the somber student, she finds herself stymied by Peter’s parents’ strange and suspicious behavior. As Peter contemplates his own mortality, he begins to hear knocking and scratching noises from behind the walls of his bedroom. Soon, the unseen stalker starts whispering… then pleading… to be freed from its prison. Peter wrestles between fear and fascination, wondering whether this entity is a friend or a foe.

Cobweb is a very well-made horror film, paying homage to all the October trappings and trimmings: Fall leaves, pumpkin patches, stormy skies, sweets, shenanigans, candlelight, and things that go bump in the night. Chris Thomas Devlins’ screenplay runs parallel to many classic fairy tales, old-fashioned horror stories, and folklore that resonate all over the world and throughout time. Astute viewers will catch references to Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, The Telltale Heart, and many more. Director Samuel Bodin keeps all those elements tightly woven and sufficiently suspenseful.

The cast is fantastic—even down to the bully bit-parts (the baddest of them, Brian, is oh-so-villainously played by Luke Busey, Gary Busey’s youngest son). Lizzy Caplan, who was great in the recent Stephen King miniseries “Castle Rock,” plays her possibly-malevolent mom role with just the right amount of intrigue, while Anthony Starr, best-known for his work on “The Boys,” also presents a good deal of ambiguous eeriness onscreen. Cleopatra Coleman, who was in the divisive horror film Infinity Pool, is spot-on as a teacher who cares and will put her life on the line for a child in danger. Of course, the star of the show is Woody Norman as Peter. He made everyone take notice of his talent in 2021 when he was nominated for a BAFTA for C’mon, C’mon, but this is his first major horror movie. Norman is perfect as the archetypical fragile, imaginative, haunted youngster who may or may not be seeing a ghost.

While Red River Horror’s staunchest sorts won’t find Cobweb “scary,” it is indeed creepy and gripping. Support our favorite genre by seeing it in theaters now but do save it to your watchlist for Halloween, too—this frightful fable is the perfect chilly-night complement to Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Trick ‘r Treat (2009), and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019).

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