dir: Samuel Bodin
Cobweb is… less than great, in fact it’s not even close to great.
It barely approaches adequate. Which is a shame. Promising premise devolves into derivative dumbness, like most uninspired horror flicks. Like most flicks, probably.
In the run up to Halloween I will doubtless see a stack of horror flicks, some of which will have Halloween as an element or as a setting. Few will be (I hope) as poorly realised as this one.
Peter (Woody Norman) is a frightened, delicate boy, perfect for a role like this. He has pale skin, gigantic brown eyes and curly brown hair. Yes, he could probably perfectly play a role as Frodo in an inevitable Lord of the Rings remake.
He is (rightly) bullied at school, and his home life isn’t much grander. But whatever happens during the day, his nights are plagued with the inexplicable. He hears a tapping on his bedroom wall, sometimes he hears words being whispered.
His parents aren’t much help. The frazzled, brittle mother (Lizzie Caplan) is high pitched and hysterical even before things go wrong. The father is played by Antony Starr, so anyone who watched the Amazon series The Boys where he plays Homelander knows already that the character will clearly be some version of a charming psychopath.
Less charming, more psychopath. With everything that’s going wrong, Peter suspects that he can’t really trust his parents because, over-protective and violent as they are, they are clearly afraid of something.
One of those things that they’re afraid of clearly should be Child Protective Services, because her fragile Suzy Homemaker bullshit, which never makes a lot of sense since this is set contemporarily and that shit is from the 1950s, isn’t going to cut it. Both parents act like off chops long before there are any reveals, or any reasons given for why they might be acting like this.
The dad especially acts like a barely restrained lunatic right from the start.
The first red flag arises when they won’t let poor little Peter get ready for trick or treating. The mere thought of trick or treating launches the mum into a stratosphere of nervous squeaking. The dad regretfully relates the story of some local girl that went missing last Halloween, never to be found, to scare Peter into not wanting anything, just like a good parent is supposed to with cautionary tales of torment and woe.
But Peter, who has no friends, no costume, who is terrified all the time regardless of what happens at night, doesn’t seem like the type to go trick or treating. He seems less invested in finding out why his parents are lying to him, and more invested in finding out who or what is in the wall of his room.
The voice gets louder, and seems like an ally. Someone female, who wants Peter to rise up and show his oppressors (both at school and at home) what’s what. At first, I was supportive of this new direction for Peter. Who doesn’t want to see the bullied rise up and take on their tormentors? Well, bullies don’t want to see that. But other good hearted people might.
And when the one teacher (Cleopatra Coleman) that Peter apparently has at the school takes a special amount of interest in him, and starts making house calls, we hope that this means Peter has at least one ally in this world who is an adult and has some agency, and can maybe help him? But then if you’re of a certain age, and you remember The Shining well enough, you also know that the character of the adult who actually knows what’s going on and is trying to help the child tends to get an axe to the guts just like Scatman Crothers does.
The “helpful adult” trope can often be the “just another character to get murdered” red herring.
I’m not going to say which way the wind blows here, but let’s just say the character of Miss Devine, even with a name like that, contributes less than you might think, just like most of the elements of the plot.
I will say that, prior to the revelation of what’s actually going on, and before the murders start, the film manages to create an atmosphere, and a level of tension.
It’s just that once it’s revealed, it was, at least for me, profoundly underwhelming.
I also have to ask – that last supper the family has, when someone starts questioning what’s in the meal – what did they think was in the horrifying looking gruel even before they detected a certain cinnamon-y aroma? What horrifying soup was that meant to be? It was grey and had black lumps in it, and these people were eating it voluntarily, like, without a gun to their heads.
That’s almost scarier than what happens next… Let’s just say a bunch of things happen, a hellish creature that didn’t make any sense that it was locked up considering how super-strong it was is unleashed, and then the flick has half an hour more to kill, which means an arbitrary bunch of jerks need to come into the house so that more people, more kids, can be killed gruesomely but mostly off screen.
By this stage, the flick becomes painfully laughable, and not fun or scary in any real way, so the hope is that it can at least wrap things up in an entertaining way. Or at least have some kind of ending, some sense of an ending.
It may surprise you, Dear Reader, that it does not. The ending is a mishandled shambles, but then everything past the halfway point is mediocre and generic horror wheel-spinning of the most uninspired kind.
When the focus is on Peter, and his less than stellar choices, it’s fine, because he’s a kid. He hasn’t done anything wrong (initially) so doesn’t deserve any of what happens. We wonder, at least for a while, as to whether his fears, his terror, are just in his head. Childhood can be scary.
But nothing that anyone except Peter does really makes sense. The parents’ actions don’t make a lot of sense, and in the end don’t matter, because they’re not the true antagonist. And no, the true antagonist isn’t capitalism, or gentrification, or racism; it’s bad decision-making and short term thinking that’s responsible.
Barbarian has some similar elements, and that only came out a bunch of months ago, and that was a far better flick, with far better performances and a way twistier plot.
This stupid flick, made in Bulgaria for some reason, will only be remembered with a roll of the eyes, if at all, by people like me.
4 times they lazily rip off The Ring and The Grudge movies as well, and badly, I might add, out of 10
“Sometimes you have to make hard decisions to protect your family.” - Cobweb