Cobweb Review

Sweet kid Peter (Woody Norman) is hearing weird noises in his bedroom. When he tells his loopy parents (Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr) about them, it only makes things worse.

by Ben Travis |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Sep 2023

Original Title:


“Are they fucking with us?” That’s a question asked by a soon-to-be-mincemeat character in the final act of Cobweb — and it’s one that audience-members, too, might be asking for much of the runtime. Because in its first half, this lonely-kid-uncovers-family-secrets horror deals in so many familiar clichés that it’s hard to get a read on it. Is this level of spot-the- trope familiarity a sign of playful knowingness, or merely a lazy pile-up of horror basics? Thankfully, it turns out to be the former.


And viewed through that lens, Cobweb ends up being a fun ride — cranking up the consciously heightened imagery and increasingly hysterical performances, before finally tipping its hand and letting the bad times roll. Take, for instance, the entire patch of rotting pumpkins in poor Peter’s back garden; the creepy paintings he makes in school (“Help me!”); the voice in his wall encouraging him to do bad things. It’s all delivered at a register that suggests a sense of its own Halloween hokiness, spinning an almost del Toro-esque fairy tale about a boy who befriends the monster who speaks to him at night.

Once the truth emerges, debut director Samuel Bodin controls the chaos admirably.

It helps that the kid is C’mon C’mon’s adorable Woody Norman — for whom you only want sunshine and rainbows, and fear he’ll get neither. But Cobweb’s real MVP is Lizzy Caplan as Peter’s mum, going from kooky to cuckoo over the runtime. Initially she seems just a tad detached, before becoming more overtly malevolent — whether viscerally chopping up pumpkin flesh, baking emotionally manipulative happy-face cupcakes, or, er, locking her son in the basement (“We’re doing this because we love you!” she implores). With the theatrical delivery of a creaky ’50s B-movie, her turn is delightful and downright strange. Antony Starr is solid as Peter’s dad — if less effective, since we’re already so used to seeing him play thinly veiled malice as Homelander in The Boys.

Once the truth emerges, debut director Samuel Bodin controls the chaos admirably, leaning into the joyous absurdity of the reveal. He shoots the film with real style, displaying a great control of light and shadow — though the nature of the horror is better when restrained to fleeting glimpses, ultimately overexposed in the film’s final minutes. But for the most part, Cobweb is freaky fun — finding its own middle-ground between the labyrinthine twists of Barbarian, the nocturnal fantasy of Pan’s Labyrinth, and the domestic negligence of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. And most importantly: yes, it is fucking with you. Once you know it, you can allow yourself to get caught up in its tangled web.

Spooky, silly, and sub-90 minutes, Cobweb uses familiar elements to create an inviting, entertaining atmosphere — and when the horrors finally emerge in the final reel, it gives good splatter to boot.
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