Overview: A young parolee is tasked with taking part in an off the grid theater production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which proves to be even more cursed than is stereotypically expected. Uncork’d Entertainment; 2015; Not Rated; 90 minutes.
Genre Reductionism: Writer-director Phil Wurtzel offers little beyond genre reductionism in his latest B-movie production A Haunting in Cawdor. The film features a backwoods playhouse that sees various juvenile parolees indebted to serve as the establishment’s star performers in lieu of harder time or more civically appropriate duty. Starring Shelby Young as the central protagonist, the entire production plays obvious lip service to the historied Scottish curse said to plague all productions of Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy Macbeth, while predictably couching itself within plenty of the horror genre’s expected clichés and narrative tropes. It doesn’t help that the entire cast, save for the ever remarkably underutilized Cary Elwes playing a ludicrously beleaguered and defamed Broadway director, plays up the entire affair to disastrously one-note effect. Bottom line, Wurtzel appears unwilling to even try to breathe life into what is an entirely redundant and unnecessary affair in low budget pageantry.
An Evil of Pedestrian Origin: Given the basic premise from which a proverbial evil unleashed upon a population of unsuspecting delinquents finds its origin in yet another ambiguously defined source, in Wurtzel’s hands a past staged production that Elwes’ character under-saw the production of to disastrous effect, the rest of the film that follows is predictably forgettable. It’s hard to get past the first couple of minutes of the film proper, and if you do, you are only greeted with what is perhaps one of the most tone deaf and intellectually-absent motion picture productions in existence. The entire production is pedestrian at best, leaving the horror of its narrative origin within the realm of the most tediously staid and expected of supernatural evils.
Dramatic Intention: There is certainly something to the basic idea that Wurtzel wants to explore, yet his dramatic intention is so severely underscored by an apparent lack of interest in anything that is going on in front of or behind the scenes. All of his star performers appear disinterested to middling to bored, and the rest of the movie suffers due to their overwhelming apathy and ham-fisted lack of skill. There is simply nothing worth noting about the entire feature, which is truly something to say given the film’s relatively concise runtime. It’s rare to come across a film as modestly paced as this one and still find oneself slogging to the finish line, without giving up before even starting. Wurtzel may have tried to make something worth watching, but his integrity behind the scenes is entirely lost when delivered by a troupe of actors obviously aware of the lack of content behind the production in which they have unfortunately become willing and engaged participants.
Overall: A Haunting in Cawdor is certainly a movie experience that is entirely uncalled for and clichéd. Without any dramatic impetus in front of or behind the camera, Wurtzel’s entire production falls flat and denies itself any of the inherent intrigue that is central to its depicted meta-stage production.
Featured Image: Uncork’d Entertainment