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“The story was simple and twisted at the same time” – Samuel Bodin talks his feature film debut Cobweb

5 min read
Woody Norman in Cobweb

Courtesy of Lionsgate

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

September is here and while we still have almost two months to go, many of our minds are set on Halloween. The jack-o-lanterns, the trick or treating, and, most importantly, the scary films set to grace our screens to get us in the mood for spooky season.

One that is sure to be a staple this year and for years to come is 's feature debut , a tale of supernatural frights and the monster inside us all as Peter () begins to hear voices speaking to him from his bedroom wall. As the hits cinema screens across the UK, FILMHOUNDS sat down with its director to talk about its influences, practical effects, and its terrifying cast.

So Cobweb is coming to UK cinemas from September. What was it that attracted you to the story?

It was the script, really, Chris Devlin's script. What I loved about it was that it was simple. The story was simple and twisted at the same time. You know, I took it home and was like “We have something to tell about that”. And the other thing is that it was an invitation to not be in reality, it had that kind of fairy tale vibe already in the script. I love to find a project with a high level of fiction when it's not in reality.

It has a very gothic fairytale theme much like your work with Marianne. Was that intentional and did you take influence from your work on the show?

Well, it was the first time I directed something that I didn't write, so it was already an exercise for me. But I think I did bring my experiences. For example, my experience with Marianne was to create fear, and I used it again, but not in the same way. This is more like a fairytale, so you can't strike too loud, and then we have the nightmare scene where we can. In Marianne, I learned that you have to take time to create fear. So that is really something I bring with me and say, “Okay, we have to slow,” or “that's too fast”.

Woody Norman in Cobweb
Courtesy of Lionsgate

I enjoyed the use of a young protagonist and the focus on fears that we have as children such as noises in the dark, spiders, and bullies at school. What was it like working with a young lead actor in Woody Norman?

He's great. To be honest, I had already worked with kids before Woody, and I worked with them like I would adult actors. Because they know what they are doing. When we were filming scary scenes, there was nothing really scary on set. It's people with wires opening some doors and I did all the sound, so we are playing and becoming kids again. It's all adults being kids. It's like telling a story next to a campfire where I would explain what was coming next.

Cobweb also stars and as Mark and Carol – how did they get involved with the project and what were they like to work with?

Like me, I think they came on board because of the script, and they also knew Marianne so we met around that. And then we talked about how we wanted to do the film. I wanted to do something weird since the beginning and I know that Lizzy was very attracted by that. She said, “Okay, let's create weird characters that we don't see. Let's create a gothic fairytale character”. It was a lot of preparation, and we worked every day, especially with Lizzy. She's like a war machine and a surgeon in the same way, and she's so powerful and precise at the same time.

Lizzy Caplan in Cobweb

It sounds like it's a lot of fun on set. Because of that, how do you get your cast into the moment for the more scary scenes?

When I direct something, I'm really prepared. I love to have a shot list and I storyboard everything. I go and see the actresses and actors and show them the sequence in my head so they know where they are and have a notion of rhythm. Because fear, much like comedy, is a question of rhythm. So we prepare ourselves and they know that when we are on set,  some things will take time. And I wanted everything practical, like the spiders, and the monster were here on set. It's all practical effects and I love that in a way because it's not perfect. But you can feel it, and the actors love to play with things on set.

A lot of people who have seen the film have championed it as a Halloween classic and have said it will surely become a staple of the holiday – was this something you considered when creating Cobweb?

Absolutely. I'm French, so I don't have the same relationship with Halloween that the US or other places have. It came to me during my childhood and with movies and literature. In France we we are not doing Halloween a big way. Then, suddenly, I had the opportunity to make a little Halloween film so I embraced that a lot. When I read the script and it said there's a little pumpkin patch in the backyard, I said “Okay, let's do an ocean of pumpkins.” So I embraced it. And it really gives colour to the movie. It's a nod to John Carpenter directly because when I think about movies, I think about his work, and it's very important to me. With each scene, when we had the frames, I was thinking about how we could make it a little more ‘Halloween'. So it really was my intention.

Cobweb had its International Premiere at  on August 26. It will be released in UK cinemas on September 1.