© Tobis Film GmbH

Knock Knock Knock (Cobweb)
U.S.A./Bulgaria 2023

Opening 2 May 2024

Directed by: Samuel Bodin
Writing credits: Chris Thomas Devlin
Principal actors: Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr, Cleopatra Coleman, Woody Norman, Luke Busey

It is October 24, Halloween is a week away, and students at Holdenfield’s elementary school are excited. Eight-year-old Peter (Woody Norman) is the only quiet one in the classroom when the principal (Jay Rincon) introduces the substitute teacher, possibly because he is tired. Every night he is awoken by knock, knock, knocking from his bedroom wall in the old, rambling house with its creaks and groans, cobwebby cellar and crawlspaces under stairs. Peter’s overprotective parents, Carol and Mark (Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr respectively), lead a quiet life, tend their pumpkin patch, and worry slightly about Peter’s recent nightmares—they hear nothing. When he mentions a Halloween costume, Carol reminds Peter about the neighborhood girl, i.e., no trick-or-treating. Just one more thing for his classmate tormentor (Luke Busey) to taunt Peter about.

Miss Devine (Cleopatra Coleman), the substitute teacher, is young, nice, and absorbed with Halloween—decorating the classroom, making Jack-o'-lanterns, and holiday themed classwork. Unlike the other students’ drawings, Peter’s is acutely worrisome, which leads her to approach his no-nonsense mother at home. Returning again under a semi-pretext, Mark invites Miss Devine in for coffee—an unsettling experience. They adamantly stress their son’s imagination is wildly vivid; Peter is made aware enough is enough. As the nighttime noises expand into whispers, so do the pervasive undercurrents in the house and among its occupants.

Samuel Bodin’s debut feature film in tandem with Chris Thomas Devlin’s unsettling screenplay introduces a new level of horror; a certain insidiousness is woven tightly, discreetly into Cobweb’s storyline so its impact is felt fully at the end. The cast performances overshadow inconsistencies in the film’s action and pacing (Richard Riffaud, Kevin Greutert editors). Peter/Norman’s downcast eyes, rare smiles; Mark/Starr’s twisted smile, discomfit; Carol/Caplan’s emotional nonchalance, aloofness, and The Girl, Aleksandra Dragova, whose amazing agility is real. The house interior is tidy, sparse, and as brooding and bleak as the domestic relationships, resonating something is off-kilter (thanks to Alan Gilmore’s production design, Ivan Ranghelov’s art direction, Arta Tozzi’s set design). Philip Lozano’s informative, imaginative cinematography meets all challenges that Drum & Lace’s evocative music augments. Cobweb’s intangible horror, where some things are as they appear and some are oppressively, horribly not, does not make audiences jump out of their skin, instead, it gets under the skin. (Marinell Haegelin)

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