Wednesday, July 19, 2023


In horror movies, when somebody hears a noise that other people say they can’t, it is a sure bet someone is getting gaslit. Whether the scratching and voices Peter hears are real or not might not be immediately clear, but it is safe to conclude his parents are horrible. Unfortunately, they might not be the only bullies and monsters he must contend with in Samuel Bodin’s Cobweb, which opens Friday in New York.

Basically, poor Peter is bullied at school and terrorized at home. Lately, he has been plagued with nightmares and unnerved by noises coming from within the walls of his room. At first, his parents tell him he is just making it up, but eventually his dad Mark breaks out some rat poison, so he can act even creepier.

Just about the only person who shows any genuine concern for Peter is new teacher Miss Devine (a long-term substitute) who appreciates his sensitivity and recognizes the warning signs of abuse. However, the principal counsels Devine to stay aloof, while the voice in Peter’s walls offers dangerous advice.

Cobweb (not a very descriptive or apt title) was partly inspired by Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but the film has a very different vibe, since Bodin and screenwriter Chris Thomas Devlin clearly suggest there is something more monstrous afoot than a psychotic unreliable narrator. In fact, there is—sort of—but it is also extremely exploitative.

Regardless, Lizzy Caplan and Anthony Starr are so deranged as Peter’s parents, they could give Nic Cage (in
Mom and Dad) a run for his money. Frankly, Caplan’s big meltdown scene might even out-Cage-rage the master.

Starr and Caplan really are terrific and massively creepy parents-from-Hell. Cleopatra Coleman is also surprisingly successful making the noble Miss Devine halfway interesting on-screen. However, the juvenile characters are not very well sketched out. Frankly, little Peter is just such a blatantly obvious victim, it is hard to believe the school never alerts the proper authorities.

Still, Bodin handles the dubious narrative surprisingly dexterously. There are quite a few strikingly composed scenes, which unfold with a generally effective slow-building sense of dread. Nevertheless, the nature of the “monster” is distasteful—maybe even offensive—when you really think about it. Even though it is well-made,
Cobweb just makes too many questionable choices. Not recommended, Cobweb opens Friday (6/21) in New York, at the Regal EWalk.