Wednesday 24 April 2024

Prime Time: Cobweb (2023)

You have to be careful when working with horror material. Sometimes meeting expectations and delivering predictable plot beats becomes part of the fun. Sometimes you need to subvert things. It all depends on what you offer up around the most familiar elements. Cobweb, sadly, doesn’t offer up anything that feels truly worth your time. 

Written by Chris Thomas Devlin, who has one other writing credit so far (one of the writers who served up Texas Chainsaw Massacre), this is a fairly standard tale of some over-protective/maybe harmful parents (played by Lizzy Caplan and Antony Starr) and a young child (Woody Norman) who starts to feel the presence of someone else living in the walls of his home. There’s a concerned teacher (played by Cleopatra Coleman), a young bully (Luke Busey) who soon moves from the terrorizer to the terrorized, and a third act that becomes disappointingly unambiguous and underwhelming when you realise the squandered potential of the premise.

While director Samuel Bodin, making their feature debut, has a decent eye, they don’t have the ability to elevate scenes in a way that can help to distract from the fairly weak script. Devlin fills the runtime with tired dialogue and one ridiculous contrivance after another. I remember being excited to check this out last year, and then my enthusiasm started to wane as I kept seeing the advertising for it and feeling as if it had nothing new to offer. I could have been wrong, sometimes the trailers and marketing do hold back a surprise or two, but it turns out that I was right. And things are made worse by both Devlin and Bodin wasting the cast.

I am a huge fan of both Caplan and Starr, which made this an even more frustrating viewing experience. Both are asked to act quite ridiculously, because anyone acting normally would end the movie within minutes. Part of me wanted more screentime for them, part of me was glad they didn’t have to carry the whole film on their shoulders. That task goes to young Norman, who is okay, I guess, but has to overdo the nervy and fragile core of his character, which is his entire personality for the duration of the movie. Coleman comes out of this best, playing the standard caring adult who investigates further when she suspects something is amiss. 

The more I think about Cobweb, the less inclined I am to compliment it. I was angry as the end credits rolled. There are positives though. It has some eye-catching visuals, making good use of the shadows and darkness in the finale. There’s also . . . Well, it has . . . Actually, I think that is it. Some decent visuals, two great cast members (both wasted), and a good title. The rest is bad, as bad as any other mainstream horror I can think of from the past few years.


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