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Cobweb (2023) Review

Cobweb begins a week before Halloween when Peter (Woody Norman, The Small Hand, Poldark) is woken up by the sound of knocking seemingly coming from inside his bedroom wall. You can’t blame him for being creeped out, with its peeling paint and backyard full of rotting pumpkins, the house already looks like something out of a horror movie. And then there’s that weird bulging thing the walls in his room do while he’s sleeping.

We also quickly learn that he has no friends and gets bullied at school. His parents Carol (Lizzy Caplan, Cloverfield, Extinction) and Mark (Antony Starr, The Boys, Without a Paddle) also won’t let him dress up for Halloween, something that may be related to the disappearance of a young girl a few years ago. Unsurprisingly, they also don’t believe him about the knocking.

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Writer Chris Thomas Devlin, whose only other credit is the 2022 version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and director Samuel Bodin whose credits include the Netflix horror series Marianne and the video for Gojira’s Vacuity front load Cobweb’s story with elements so familiar calling them cliches would be a cliche. To these, they add the new teacher Miss Devine (Cleopatra Coleman, Infinity Pool, In the Shadow of the Moon) who takes an interest in Peter. And a voice that tells him to stand up for himself, followed by one of his tormentors taking a tumble down the stairs.

Now, familiar doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but that’s not the only problem Cobweb has. Peter’s parents are portrayed as cartoonishly evil, we’re not even out of the first act before they’ve literally locked him in the basement which, for some reason, is equipped with a chain and manacles as a punishment. They’re meant to appear threatening, but they’re so over the top I found them to be unintentionally funny, which ruins much of the suspense and uncertainty the film is trying to establish.

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What isn’t funny is the dark turn Cobweb takes going into the final act. I certainly wasn’t expecting Devlin and Bodin to go where they did, and I give them credit for it. I also give them credit for a bloody, jump filled final act that helps redeem the film.

Unfortunately, it also leaves way too many questions unanswered. Most notably, just who or what is in the walls. It looks like it crawled out of a Ring sequel, although going by the story it tells it’s human and has been locked up most of its life. But that doesn’t explain how it can do what we see it do, that would require a more supernatural explanation. It also doesn’t explain how this could not end up with the authorities involved and having to deal with the creature.

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On the technical side, Cobweb is well enough done. Cinematographer Philip Lozano (Blood Machines, Redemption Day) makes the most of the creepy old house most of the film takes place in. The VFX crew under supervisors Aleksander Aleksiev (We Die Young, The Enforcer) and James David Hattin (Unhuman, Hardcore Henry) offer up a believable CGI creature. The prosthetics team, Yana Stoyanova (Day of the Dead: Bloodline, The Witcher), Vera Boyadzhieva (The Princess, Ghosts of War) and Boyka Mladenova (The Offering, The Car: Road to Revenge) provide the results of its rampage including a body torn in half.

The result of all of this is a film that I can’t quite recommend going to the theatre to see but delivers enough in the last act that it could be worth a watch once it reaches the home market. And if you do like it you can thank Seth Rogen, I have a feeling his involvement as a producer was what got the project greenlit.

Lionsgate will release Cobweb in theaters on July 21st. No date has been announced for Digital or Blu-ray release.

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