Cobweb‘s director Samuel Bodin is terrified of spiders, which either makes all the sense in the world after helming a horror movie that frequently uses the arachnids’ naturally scary appearance, or makes no sense at all.
Speaking with The Digital Fix, Bodin explained that having a real spider on set and utilizing its anatomy in the creature design for Cobweb was like exposure therapy — his fear lessening day by day the further he pushed his camera towards it.
Unfortunately for us, we had no such luck. Among 2023’s most unique new movies, Bodin reanimated our childhood fears, calling back to some of the best horror movies that haunted our youths and provided nightmare fuel. In this interview, the filmmaker tells us what he thinks are the best John Carpenter movies, makes reference to Coraline, and explains Antony Starr’s creepy dad energy.
TDF: We’re huge Antony Starr fans. And he’s so good at playing these characters that seem subdued but there’s so much going on beneath that bright smile.
SB: He’s so gentle and warm, and suddenly you start to work and you can’t be in the same room as him. You can say [to him], ‘Okay, you can go to this level.’ and then you go, ‘Oh my God, this guy is so scary.’ But he loves playing. So, he’s not at all the same guy. It’s really an exercise for him. He loves that and he’s very playful. I was lucky to work with him.
TDF: The town in the movie is called Holdenfield. Was that a Halloween Haddonfield reference?
SB: I thought that it made sense to do it. I’m a French guy, we don’t have a relationship with Halloween like they do in the U.S., and my relationship with Halloween is more in cinema, stories, TV series, and things I have seen as a kid. And so then you say, ‘Oh, I will be able to direct a Halloween [holiday] movie!’ For me, Halloween is one of the best movies ever.
TDF: What’s your favorite of all the Halloween movies?
SB: I’m totally a fan of the original. I’ve loved movies for a long time. But when I watched it, for the first time, maybe I was 17 — something like that — I was totally struck by how he [John Carpenter] uses space and time. And space and time are key for our story.
TDF: I was gonna ask you what your favorite movie to watch on Halloween is, but I guess maybe it’s Halloween.
TDF: I loved the way that tension was built in Cobweb because it was like a game of chicken. I wanted to look away because I was scared but at the same time, I knew that you had things I didn’t want to miss.
SB: I always say to the producer, if it’s not scary on paper, it won’t be scary on film, you really have to work on your story. You have to put a lot of time in and a lot of intention in everything. After that, you have to play with your audience, the more you do this, the better it is. And the more generous, the more honest you are, the more scary it will be.
TDF: There are lots of things in the movie kids commonly find scary, like the dark, basements, and bullies. But for some kids, the scariest thing can be an angry parent, can you talk about making them as scary as any monster?
SB: With Lizzy [Caplan] and Antony, we worked a lot on that. It’s a work of detail to create this weird feeling when we see them [like] don’t trust them, maybe they are violent. It’s complicated because sometimes maybe we go too far, it’s too much, but you have to take the risk. I [also] watched Coraline a lot, that kind of movie. Lizzy is a war machine and a surgeon at the same time, she’s so powerful and precise. Antony has that thing where he can be very warm and it’s ‘Oh, this guy can protect me, it’s my father.’ And in the camera, suddenly, it’s danger.
TDF: We got a little sneak peek of the creature in the trailer but can you talk a bit about the creature design? For a lot of the movie, it really is left to your imagination.
SB: I did not want to be too original; it’s as if you have already met her in a nightmare. I wanted her to be on set, practical. I wanted her to have something of a fairy tale, very very long hair. It was a kind of naive projection of a monster, of a bad sister, the worst sister you can imagine. Aleksandra Dragova, who plays the girl, brought a lot of movement to her. And after that, I played with the frame rate, because I love the feeling of old movies and avoid CGI.
TDF: What scared you the most as a kid?
SB: You will laugh… I am scared of spiders. When we shot the movie, I said, ‘Lets put real spiders in because I don’t want CGI spiders.’ First, they bring me this big tarantula kind of thing… No, [I wanted] the kind of big spider you have in your bedroom or the attic. At the beginning, I was afraid. I lost my fear during the movie, and now I’m scared of spiders again. Spiders and the dark. But we are all scared of that, in a way.
Cobweb releases in UK cinemas on September 1, 2023, and is available on VOD platforms in the US.
For more Starr, get clued up on The Boys season 4 release date and The Boys cast. And we’ve got the Halloween movies in order, Michael Myers origins explained, and the best Halloween movies (the holiday, not the franchise) too. If you feel like rewatching one of the best scary movies for kids, find out where to watch Coraline.