Film Review: A HAUNTING IN CAWDOR (2015)

Film Review: A HAUNTING IN CAWDOR (2015)

Feb 19, 2016

IMDb: A Haunting in Cawdor (2015)
Director: Phil Wurtzel
Stars: Shelby Young, Alexandria DeBerry, Michael Welch

You have to feel bad for Cary Elwes, he’s seen his career go from films like The Princess Bride, Glory and Twister to the likes of Saw, which even if it was low budget was successful enough to spawn a seemingly endless franchise. Now he’s drifted to the zero budget realm of films like A Haunting in Cawdor.

The plot is a fairly interesting one, a theater uses work release candidates from a program for juvenile offenders as stagehands and actors. As the director, played by Elwes, prepares to attempt to mount a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth strange things start happening, things that seem to be linked to an earlier attempt do put the play on. Is it the ghost of the young actress who was murdered then, or the curse that’s been attached to the play since Shakespeare first staged it?

The theater has long been a setting for genre films, going back to the original Phantom of the Opera on through Stagefright and The Flesh and Blood Show to the more recent Theater Bizarre. It somewhat offsets the cliched setting by having the theater populated by juvenile offenders rather than theatrical professionals. It also makes it easier to set up potential red herrings since so many of them have issues. Indeed, the lead actress’s past becomes a major plot point. Granted it was all fairly obvious to me what was going on, though the more casual genre fan may find it harder to tell. The “haunted” videotape was also an interesting touch, and not the rip off of The Ring that it sounds like.

Writer/director Phil Wurtzel arguably does a better job behind the camera than behind the keyboard. He makes the theater and its surroundings seem very creepy and menacing, (it was shot in Michigan’s Barn Theater). He also keeps the camera in motion a lot in a style that made me think of Argento and those who learned under him. I actually wondered if we were going to go in the direction of Soavi’s Stagefright before the main plot kicked in. And I must say, I’d be open to a giallo-esque take on the Macbeth curse, but this goes in another direction.

The cast is solid enough for what they’re asked to do. Elwes is the only name actor here, although a few of the cast have a list of small roles in their credits. None of them really stand out, but they do a good job of making the viewer like or hate their characters.

A Haunting in Cawdor isn’t going to redefine the theatrical horror subgenre or reignite Elwes’ career, but it is a pleasant enough way to kill some time and a lot better than much of the crap I’ve seen hit the shelves recently.