A kid deals with awful parents, a hidden sibling, and a cliched script.
“Cobweb” is a horror film that represents evil in characters, but its script is too cliched for its own good. The parents have to not believe their son is hearing things in his room. Knocks to be exact. They have to think he has an overactive imagination. And apparently, in this case, they have to say they love him, when in actuality, they’re being cruel to him.
Woody Norman (the breakout star of “C’Mon C’Mon”) plays that boy named Peter, who deals with one wall knock after another, but his parents (Lizzy Caplan and Anthony Starr) are the ones who think he has an overactive imagination. They’re the kind of parents who force him to stop having these nightmares (that is if they are nightmares), and who would lock him in the basement for standing up to his school bully Brian (Luke Busey).
The one good person in his life is his substitute teacher Miss Devine (Cleopatra Coleman), who is basically the movie’s Miss Honey, as she helps him deal with a spider on his paper, and is sympathetic to him when he doesn’t want to play with the other kids, who are cruel to him for no reason.
The one character who claims to be good in his house is Sarah (Aleksandra Dragova), who lives in the walls, and is revealed to be his deformed sister. You know. The one whom the parents have to fear like the Penguin’s parents in “Batman Returns.” Loving parents, they are. She tries to be his voice of reasoning by telling him to stand up to his parents, and he promises to free her.
But of course, the girl has to be the evil one, and she’s barely revealed, as she’s mostly seen in the shadows. This is a low-budgeted film, so I guess they were a bit skeptical on the effects. But then again, most commercial jump scare films in the “Conjuring” universe are basically the same effect, so there’s not much of a difference. For me at least.
Norman is a gifted young actor, who has proven his worth in “C’Mon C’Mon,” and he does a good job in “Cobweb” with much better potential than Banks Repta in “Armageddon Time.” Different genres, but they both deal with lousy parents. These parents in “Cobweb” are much worse, and they say they love their child, but I’m not even sure they know what “love” even means. Caplan and Starr both use the right range of emotions in these roles.
The film is directed with sinister looks by Samuel Boden, and produced with ambition by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, and Roy Lee, but written with mediocre material by Chris Thomas Devlin. For example, during the third act, the bully has to have older cousins wearing animal masks to punish Peter and his family, but end up punished by the horrors of Sarah. I think they just wanted to make the film longer, as if the bully getting injured or the parents getting their just desserts weren’t enough.
And there are some spiders in “Cobweb,” which I hate because of my arachnophobia. But at least they won’t scar me for life here.
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This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.