Cobweb, directed by Samuel Bodin, offers a chilling exploration of childhood dark fantasies, the repercussions of parental negligence, and the enduring impact of unchecked childhood trauma. This horror thriller dives into the secrets of a dysfunctional family and the haunting struggle of a young child attempting to survive in a household fraught with horrifying mysteries. The film features a talented cast, including Antony Starr, Lizzy Caplan, and Cleopatra Coleman, and deftly showcases a great effort to conjure fear and suspense throughout its enigmatic narrative and grim and creative visuals.
While Cobweb successfully taps into the fear of the unknown, effectively keeping us on the edge of our seats, some die-hard horror fans like me may find the storyline extremely predictable and find that it falls short of delivering the satisfactory horror experience they might expect. In comparison to other films in the horror genre like The Babadook, which masterfully explores a psychological horror, or childhood dark fantasy horrors like Pan’s Labyrinth, Cobweb doesn’t quite reach the same level of intricacy in its storyline or paint a horrific world of darkness for the horror-seeking audience.
What Happens In The Movie?
Cobweb revolves around a young boy named Peter, who lives with his parents, Mark and Carol. Unlike typical parents, who are nurturing and watchful of their children, Mark and Carol seemed different. While Mark seemed to be a strict father, Carol seemed traumatized and absent-minded. One night, while Peter was in bed, he heard tapping on his bedroom walls and the voice of a little girl asking for help. Despite Peter being terrified of the voice, his parents dismissed it as mere imagination. At school, Peter used a painting to communicate with his substitute teacher, Ms. Devine, telling her about the girl’s voice he heard at night. This worried Ms. Devine, prompting her to visit Peter’s house and inquire about his well-being. However, Carol’s behavior towards Ms. Devine was strange and unwelcoming.
In the meantime, Peter faced bullying at school, leading to his isolation from his classmates. Lacking friends, his young mind absorbed the world’s darkness even more deeply, making way for the evil voice to infiltrate his psyche. Among his classmates, Brian was the most annoying. During Halloween time, when every student brought their pumpkin to paint over it, Brian destroyed Peter’s pumpkin out of jealousy. Unexpectedly, the next day, when Brian asked for forgiveness, the girl’s voice within Peter’s mind urged him to push Brian down the stairs. Peter complied with the voice and pushed Brian down, breaking his leg. This incident led to Peter’s expulsion from school, which further infuriated his parents.
However, instead of believing Peter and providing him with the emotional support he needed, his parents chose to lock him in the basement temporarily. During this period, Ms. Devine came to check on Peter. But Mark and Carol, expressing their displeasure at her arrival, asked her to leave. Mark, with a hammer in his hand, intimidated Devine, who had to leave the house despite having serious concerns about Peter.
During Halloween, Carol granted Peter permission to leave the basement. However, upon coming out, he immediately began hearing the voice of the girl once again. She introduced herself as Peter’s sister and the firstborn child of their parents. She warned Peter about his parents, claiming they were evil, and disclosed that they had imprisoned her within the walls. She believed that only Peter could help her escape by opening a door that was hidden behind a giant clock in their parents’ bedroom. As Peter struggled to comprehend and fully believe her, the voice guided him to dig a grave in the garden. There, he discovered a skeleton, supposedly that of a little girl who’d vanished during a past Halloween. This girl had come to the house for trick-or-treating and tried to help Peter’s sister escape her confinement, but Mark and Carol ended up killing her. Unnerved by this revelation, Peter eventually believed that his parents were evil.
In an attempt to seek help, Peter even called Ms. Devine, but his mother caught him in the act. On Halloween night, while having dinner with his parents, Mark and Carol realized the soup tasted like cinnamon. Peter had laced the soup with rat poison, which resembled the taste and smell of cinnamon. The poison led to a horrifying death for both Carol and Mark, freeing Peter to release his sister into the house. Guided by the voice’s instructions, he shifted the large clock to reveal a small door, which he opened. Yet, upon doing so, he grasped that the entity within the wall was not a small child but a monster with evil intentions.
As the monster came out of the walls, it began to scare Peter, prompting him to hide under a bed. Concurrently, on that very night, Brian and his friends, wearing animal masks, sought revenge against Peter, intending to beat him up. They barged into his house, but the monster killed them one by one.
Meanwhile, Ms. Devine, alarmed by Peter’s call, considered checking on him. On Halloween night, upon arriving at the house, she discovered the door had already been opened. Upon entering, she found the house filled with dead bodies and blood all over its floors and walls. She found Peter locked up within the walls and attempted to rescue him. However, before they could escape, the monster managed to capture Peter once again.
In a confrontation, the entity revealed herself to be the firstborn of Peter’s parents, a creature they could not accept due to her monstrous nature. She had been kept in a pit and later transferred to a cage within the walls, where she developed the ability to climb and creep using her long hands and hair. She grew jealous as she witnessed Peter’s birth and the love he received. She waited for Peter to grow up so she could manipulate him into freeing her. The monster, named Sarah, according to the name Peter found on her doll, attempted to attack Peter, but Ms. Devine intervened, guiding him out of the cage and protecting him from harm. Sarah was once again confined in the cage, but she alerted Peter that this cage wouldn’t be able to hold her for long. While Peter moved out of the house, Sarah remained a constant presence by his side, like a shadow. It was an evident dark connection between them, as they were siblings, and Peter’s monstrous act of killing his parents made them equally evil.
Cobweb is a horror film with an interesting premise, but it does have some narrative shortcomings when looked at closely. While the storyline isn’t as complex as one might expect, it does highlight notable issues of parental flaws and unhealthy family dynamics. The characters, although not extensively explored, appear deliberately vague, possibly to intensify the absurdity of the film. Peter, the central character, shows clear signs of being influenced by a negative force. His character symbolizes the effects of his parents’ mistakes, which continue to make him suffer for his entire life. The film explores various themes like isolation, manipulation, and the darkness that arises when people lack support from their loved ones. Cobweb conveys a cautionary message about the serious outcomes of parental negligence on a child, emotional suppression, and the consequences of a lack of validation. Both Peter and Sarah deserved attention, validation, and love from their parents, but Mark and Carol failed to provide that to any of their children, which pushed the siblings deeper into a world of nightmares and distorted perspectives.
Overall, Cobweb is an intriguing and terrifying experience, with great performances and various horror elements. However, while it concludes the storyline by highlighting the enduring impact of trauma, it doesn’t create a strong sense of fear about the character’s future. The lack of an unexpected twist reduces the suspense, as the audience already knows what’s going to happen. Cobweb leaves certain horror enthusiasts yearning for a conclusion that carries a more substantial impact and remains imprinted in their minds long after the credits roll.