Well isn't this a creepy little mess?
Part horror film, part mystery and very well acted, COBWEB starts pulling apart at the end, but offers an intriguing premise.
The superb young Woody Norman (C'mon C'mon) stars as shy, introverted young Peter. Tormented by bullies on every bus ride and every recess, he finds his only solace in quiet moments with his substitute teacher Miss Divine (Cleopatra Coleman).
Peter's home life offers no comfort. He is hearing knocking on his walls at night and when he gets up to investigate, the knocks grow more responsive.
His parents are just a bit....off.
His mom Carol (Lizzy Caplan from "Cloverfield") seems supportive of helping him through his nightmares, at first. His father Mark (Antony Starr from "The Boys") has less patience.
Mom and Dad aren't too excited about celebrating Halloween either. It seems a young girl disappeared five years ago on Halloween night and they don't want Peter to be any part of trick or treating.
Writer Chris Thomas Devlin doesn't let the story take predictable paths. Unlike all those paranormal activity movies, the scary stuff at night can take place at any time after Peter goes to bed. This poor kid's bedroom is one big bad dream.
When the knocks turn to voices and the voices start advising Peter, you're pulled into a mystery.
What are we watching?
Is this a film about mental illness? Is it about child abuse or is it just a violent ghost story strung tight? There were moments that leaned in so hard on child abuse I started pulling back in my seat. "Doctor Sleep" was the last movie that took child endangerment this far down the dark hallway.
The first half of the film plays like a horror themed "Dateline" episode. It pulls you in, throws you a lot of options and had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out where it was going.
The last 40 minutes are like the end of a manic roller coaster, unleashing every twist and turn it can and hurtling you face first into some very bloody confrontations.
Some of it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's so well acted, especially by Caplan, Coleman and Norman, that you can't look away.
I love the quiet scene on the front porch when Miss Divine comes to the house to share the Halloween picture that Peter drew in class with his parents. Kaplan will make your skin crawl with her bizarre reactions to the teacher's concerns. The teacher's second visit to the house to check on Peter takes things to a whole other level.
Well shot and superbly acted, it demands all your goodwill in that final act.
Norman's performance as Peter won't let you go, even when everything around him is spinning out of control. This kid is the real deal. As is so often the case, the final minute or two fails to live up to everything before it, but the first half is so damn good, I was too caught up in its web to care.
The music score by Italian composer Drum & Lace is damn near perfect, giving me echoes of Ken Wannberg's chilling music for the 1980's ghost story "The Changeling" with George C. Scott.
This one is not for the family with buckets of blood and gore spewing forth in all the right ways.
COBWEB is a sticky mess that almost collapses in its final act, but still gets a solid B- from me. Rarely has "we're doing this because we really, really love you!" been more creepy.