The basic horror movie elements are present: We have Peter (Woody Norman), a haunted loner who hears things he shouldn’t and whose Halloween is ruined by two disturbing parents, Carol (Lizzy Caplan) and Mark (Antony Starr). There’s also a caring teacher named Miss Devine (Cleopatra Coleman) who is more concerned about Peter’s well-being than his parents, and then there’s the otherworldly voice on the wall whose character is a surprise I won’t spoil. Despite its supernatural creepiness, and yes, spiders, Bodin and writer Chris Thomas Devlin (who previously wrote the 2022 remake of The Chainsaw Massacre ) have the skeletons of a horror movie, but not one that feels fleshed out.
The “roll net” is full of misdirection – things get thrown into the story but never amount to anything. For example, there’s the mystery of a lost trick-or-treater that Carol and Mark tell Peter is the reason he’s not allowed to enjoy Halloween, and while it comes up once or twice, once that mystery is solved, it just kind of fades away. The bullies torture Peter, but no one addresses them until Peter reacts violently, then they disappear back to the end for a (again, predictable) climactic showdown. In one of the funniest shots, Miss Devine visits Carol and Mark to ask about Peter and notices that Mark has an open cut on his forearm. “You’re bleeding,” she tells him. “I’m just doing some remodeling,” Mark replies smugly. “Loose nails. Don’t worry about it.” And just like that, the subject is dropped. He wipes a fair amount of blood from his arm and asks her. What was the purpose of the scene? To establish something wrong with Mark? This has been telegraphed in many other moments. Was it just another weird exchange, suppressed to scare Miss Devine (what a name) into not finding out what’s going on with Peter? The scene is just another standout moment in a movie that feels out of pace.
“Scooby Doo, where are you?” episodes had more suspense than “Cobweb” holds as it gets its answers. It’s such a boring experience, I watched the movie twice hoping maybe I missed something. I did not do it. I just watched a boring movie twice. Starr and Caplan have fun acting erratically, and Norman (who charmed audiences in “C’mon C’mon”) plays poor haunted Peter well enough to win viewers’ sympathy. But this is not enough to electrify the “Cobweb” into life. Coleman doesn’t get much chance to shine in her limited role, but much of the camera time is devoted to Peter, often alone or in his thoughts as his parents yell at him for one reason or another. For all its Shining-like puppet visuals, sometimes incomprehensible dark cinematography, and more eerily Coraline-like sentiments that maybe your parents aren’t who they seem, Cobweb is trash at best hiding.
Now plays in theaters.