A Haunting in Cawdor (15) | Close-Up Film Review


Dir. Phil Wurtzel, US, 2015, 100 mins

Cast: Shelby Young, Carey Elwes, Michael Welch

Shelby Young plays Vivian Miller, sent to a rehabilitation programme for young offenders, where a theatre camp run by failed Broadway producer Lawrence O’Neil (Cary Elwes) named The Cawdor Barn Theatre is used as an alternative to jail time. She is set, along with a dozen or so other young inmates, to stage a production of Macbeth to help improve these kids’ minds about becoming bad citizens of the world. Dogged by previous issues of creating the same play within the theatre and suffering from a curse that plagues all involved, Vivian takes the full brunt of the problems and must figure out what’s going on. Along the way she has visions and hallucinations of a spiritual presence that casts a dark cloud over the theatre and the production. And through the unveiling of an old tape, unleashes these demons on Cawdor and the current actors.

Cary Elwes, known for his work on The Princess Bride should really know better than to star in this film. Possibly the amount of work being thrown his way is minimal but he should at least ensure better scripts to really put some acting talent into it. Even Michael Welch, who plays Vivian’s sort-of love interest (who was also in Twilight, should probably of used the Twilight success to get better, more meaningful roles). Instead, his part plonks in and out of the film like a one of those video game characters that are there to give you clues and tips, but when it comes to helping with actually solving the riddle or shooting a large group of foes, they are nowhere to be seen or just glitches into a nearby wall shooting upwards and spinning wildly.

This is a teen horror film lacking in scares but full of cheesy dialogue, paint-by-numbers characters that are stereotypical of the genre and borderline awful acting. With an air of low-budget production, it can come across at times like a school production for a final exam and can throw you out of the story – the very thin story – to make this less charming and less memorable. The influences are clear but it takes itself too seriously and doesn’t allow itself the fun that could have ensured that the audience got a kick out of it too. It’s dragged down so much that within the first 30 minutes, you start to wish that someone will get killed, even if the building just magically collapsed, killing all those inside, at least then when police arrive to examine the site of this horrible accident it would be more interesting to see them figure out which body parts belong to which person than to sit through another 60 minutes of the slow, boring and horribly scripted theatre-horror that is A Haunting in Cawdor.

Review by Simon Childs