Cobweb (2023) Directed by Samuel Bodin
My incredulity towards the conventions of the genre probably played a role in keeping me from thoroughly enjoying this patchwork of new and old ideas. Although I was naturally skeptical of its didactic sobriety, I must admit that I unapologetically embraced the campy bravado that devoured the dramatic passivity of the plot in its delirious final acts. Samuel Bodin’s Cobweb is deceptive, deliberately deceptive – what seems to start out as a supernatural horror story is really just the camouflage that hides its true perverse ontology – it’s a film that operates on mechanical principles but is never entirely subordinated to them. Peter (Woody Norman) is a shy boy who is constantly bullied at school, and in his claustrophobic, oppressive home lives under the scrutiny of his overprotective parents (Antony Starr and Lizzy Caplan). Every night Peter hears a strange, ghostly voice through the walls surrounding his room; he believes them to be nightmares, but soon questions these phenomena to the point where he begins to believe that what he hears are real voices. The atmosphere in Peter’s daily life is tense and overwhelming, the innocent atmosphere that thickens in each negative space of the framing tenaciously plays with functional trappings that do nothing more than set up an insidious storytelling that evolves in various monstrous shapes.
The plot is silly, even sillier when you realize it’s nothing more than clichés piled on top of schlocky horror. However, and I emphasize this, the film embraces the ideals of b-movie horror in an unexpected fashion; it is wickedly funny – deliciously twisted too – when the story reveals its inner depths. The script may be flawed, but it is adept at resurrecting the tradition of the trashy, the exploitative. And once its internal underpinnings are revealed, the film is reminiscent of a plethora of horror narratives from the past and present. It doesn’t necessarily emulate those frameworks, but rather I think it celebrates their mechanisms by implementing them with hyperbolic shamelessness. Somehow, I get the impression that this film would have worked phenomenally well in the 60’s or 70’s when thrillers made with diabolical duplicity and over-the-top kitsch dealt with themes similar to those occurring here. Disappointingly, seen in our cinematic contemporaneity, Samuel Bodin’s somewhat insipid plan to develop such a grisly and vile story is too sloppy. This keeps the entertainment on a neutral spectrum, it can be as dull as it can be gruesomely scary fun. As an autumnal film it gives off a lot of Halloween vibes, and although it has tedious subplots interrupting the vehemence of its multifaceted terror, I think it’s a fast-paced, grotesque entertainment that is never shy to dabble with the bad taste, tiresome clichés and perversities that rule in camp aesthetics.