09th Nov2017

‘A Haunting in Michigan’ DVD Review

by Richard Axtell

Stars: Cary Elwes, Shelby Young, Michael Welch, Alexandria DeBerry, Scott T. Whitesell, Nancy Lynette Parker, Lauren Rys Martin, Patrick Floch, Jordan Burgess | Written and Directed by Phil Wurtzel


In this tense tale of psychological terror, Vivian Miller (Shelby Young) is a young twenty something who’s serving out her jail sentence at a work release program in the Midwest. Her 90 days of probation take her to The Cawdor Theatre, a dilapidated summer stock theatre run by Lawrence O’Neil (Cary Elwes). Vivian’s arrival in Cawdor starts a terrifying series of events that brings Lawrence’s secret past to the present. After Vivian views an old taped stage production of Macbeth, a force of evil is unleashed which soon turns its sights on her. With the help of Roddy (Michael Welch), a local outcast, Vivian sets about trying to discover who the supernatural killer on the tape is before she becomes the next victim.

Horror and camps go together like tea and biscuits. Like cheese and biscuits. Like chocolate and… biscuits. I really like biscuits. I digress. What I’m saying is that they work really well together. Ever since Friday the 13th, a camp has seemed like a great place to do a horror film. They just make the perfect stage for people to run around screaming in, don’t they? So when A Haunting in Cawdor began, I had high hopes. It was set in a theatre camp for young parolees and it felt like the perfect combination for an epic terror fest.

Then, barely a minute into the film, three witches surround the main character, Vivian. Three really poorly costumed witches combined with blurry, shaky camera effects in a scene which made me cringe at its cheesiness. Yikes. Not a good start. I lowered my expectations and that played in my favour. I really enjoyed the rest of the first act. The way the film set the scene, introducing characters, the camp, the forced manual labour they would have to do and, of course the ‘Scottish Play’ they would have to perform (*whispers* Macbeth) was handled really well.

Oh yeah, and there is a ‘scary ghost thing’.

A Haunting in Michigan seems to forget at points that it is a horror film. It gets caught up in showing ‘camp life’, then it catches itself occasionally and quickly throws in some whispers and scary noises just to remind itself that this is meant to be horror.

As a result, the middle act of the film gets a bit… dull. The parolees do work, rehearse for the play, we learn a bit more about Vivian’s back story, and there are a few bumps and whispers, but nothing really gets the heart racing. That is, until the final twenty minutes when Vivian suddenly figures out everything in a poorly explained scene and then stops the antagonist in a way which makes… well… no sense at all. Boom. The end.

I feel A Haunting in Michigan missed a trick. It could have had a lot more parallels with the play for example, rather than just ‘witches appearing for reasons we won’t tell you about’. I actually think that if the film had focussed more on the other characters at the camp as well, and focussed more on the scares, it would have been more balanced and enjoyable. As it is, the film is just slow and confusing.

A Haunting in Michigan is out now on DVD from High Fliers.


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