Movie Reviews

Published on February 29th, 2016 | by Neil Jordan


A Haunting In Cawdor

The psychological thriller is another genre that seems to have taken a ‘back seat’ to the big budget action films, horror, and comedies in recent years. Or if there were any good psychological thrillers to hit the theater or the internet I either didn’t hear about them or they didn’t really make much of an impact. Personally when I think of that genre the first name to come to mind is Alfred Hitchcook. I’m sure if I sat down and thought about it, I could think of a movie that falls into that category I’ve seen since then but I don’t have that kind of time. What I do have time for is to tell you about a movie that is certainly a step in the right direction.

Uncork’ed Entertainment’s ‘A Haunting In Cawdor’ available March 11th, is written and directed by Phil Wurtzel and revisits this genre of film with an impressive cast in attempt to breathe new life into psychological terror. Vivian Miller (Shelby Young of American Horror Story) is a young troubled woman who is serving out her jail sentence along with a group of convicts with a work release program in a small Midwestern town. Specifically, at the Cawdor Barn Theater. A rundown seasonal summer run by Lawrence O’Neil (Cary Elwes of A Princess Bride and The X-Files) a failed Broadway director who has taken it upon himself to stage amateur productions with young parolees.

It doesn’t take long once the movie starts for the quote ‘madness’ to begin. The moment Vivian sets foot in town, she starts to hallucinate. A local boy Roddy (Michael Welch of The Twilight Saga, Z Nation, Scandal) takes an immediate interest in her but disappears shortly thereafter. Once the group arrives at the theater they are told that along with helping with the theater’s upkeep part of the group’s probation is to put on a stage production of William Shakespeare’s ‘MacBeth’ which has not been performed at the theater in 15 years. While the everyone is preparing to upgrade the theater and rehearse for the play Vivian finds an old VHS cassette with a recording of the theater’s last performance of ‘MacBeth’. As it turns out the young girl that was cast in the lead for that performance Jeanette (Alexandria Deberry), the same role Vivian has been cast in, was found dead not long after and upon viewing the tape unintentionally releases an evil force that has some sort of connection to Lawrence who has begun to act superstitiously. At first Vivian tries to write these instances off as hallucinations brought about by her own personal demons and a lack of medication which her psychiatrist Dr. Lazarus (Peter Floch) readily agrees with. Things take an even more otherworldly turn though when the spirit of the dead girl begins to communicate with Vivian through the tape and the mystery surrounding her death and that of her mysterious admirer Roddy and his connection to Lawrence and the play all converge just days before the play.

This film is definitely the kind of thing you’d want to watch in the dark and preferably on a stormy night as well. You had a great cast composed of veterans and up-and-comers combined with a basic premise. The movie did seem to lack something though. There was very little regarding the interpersonal relationships between the characters in the movie and how they got along with one another. Mostly just a few scenes of the group presumably drinking alcohol which they were not supposed to have to begin with. There was also the fact that you learn Vivian’s crime but not why she did it and they continually poke at the subject in the brief flashbacks. There were also the ending of the film which, after the grand finale, makes no sense whatsoever. There’s no resolution and not in the sense that it was written that way purposely. There were a few directions the movie could’ve explored in that hour and 40 minutes but didn’t which would added more to the film. It could almost be compared to having a bunch of people run every path in a maze except the one path that would lead you out of it.
The one thing that saved the film was the cast and their performances. I can give this film 2 1/2 stars because of that. It’s worth watching once for that aspect alone.

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