Vivian, a woman serving a jail sentence, is sent to The Cawdor Barn Theatre to serve out her probation. After she views tape of an old production of Macbeth, an evil force is released, and she must identify the supernatural killer before it gets her.
Sometimes in a movie, it feels like the writer took a bunch of things that already exist and threw them into a new story hoping that they would strengthen each other. In some cases that works to great effect, having the homages add to an already solid story. Other times, it feels like a film is simply a bunch of clichés and overexposed tropes.
A Haunting in Cawdor was one of these movies, taking inspiration from other movies that came before without fleshing any of them out in interesting ways. Vivian Miller (Shelby Young) was a young adult working at the Barn Theatre as part of her work release prison program. There’s your troubled young woman trope for the main character. The Barn Theatre was preparing to put on a performance of Macbeth, but it went wrong. That’s the trope of Macbeth being a cursed play. The director of the Barn Theatre, Lawrence O’Neil (Cary Elwes) was putting on the play to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his last presenting it. There’s your history repeating itself cliché. These weren’t even the tip of the familiarity iceberg that was A Haunting in Cawdor.
The main problem was that A Haunting in Cawdor never went anywhere with these tropes. The movie tossed them into the story and let them sit there, limp and lifeless. The characters being from the bad side of the tracks did nothing but give a reason for why they were all at the Barn Theatre. They would have had the same interactions whether they were delinquents or not. As for the Macbeth thing, there weren’t many consequences of that being the play. The events that happened were predicated upon something that had happened during the play twenty years before, not the play itself. The past got some detail to it, but only so much in that the single event from two decades prior was haunting the people of the present. There wasn’t much more to it.
Vivian Miller got more depth than she deserved based on the movie’s writing. She had a mysterious past that was slowly revealed as the story played out. She was closed off from the rest of the rehabilitating people and eschewed any form of friendship that may have come from connecting with them. But her inner turmoil made her into the perfect candidate for the role of Lady Macbeth, allowing her emotion to release through the character. She shared only surficial similarities to Lady Macbeth, however. Lady Macbeth saw blood, and Vivian ended up with blood on her hands. Their personalities were jarringly different, making the metaphor feel forced for the sake of horrific imagery. Not that there were real scares that came from the imagery. She was the best-rounded character, yet still felt two dimensional.
The movie wasn’t much better-rounded than its characters. It took inspiration from many movies that came before it without putting its own stamp on the material. It was like a Frankenstein monster of movie details. None of them were appropriated well. The scenes felt more like the writer thought that they worked well somewhere else and could fit into A Haunting in Cawdor with the same amount of success. That wasn’t the case. The movie ended up being a hollow impersonation of the inspirations instead of accentuating its own good qualities with them. None of the moments that were clipped from other films felt fresh and many seemed forced into the narrative in an attempt to breathe quality into it.
There isn’t much more to say about A Haunting in Cawdor. The movie wasn’t all that good. Instead of bringing terror filled scares with characters that you could truly connect to and care about, it gave us unlikeable, unrelatable, barely built characters complaining about things and being spooked by the non-frightening. There could have been something great in this movie. It ended up simply being predictable boredom.