Caveat is the latest movie from streaming service Shudder to make the leap over to DVD, allowing those who don’t have the horror themed network a chance to catch this strange movie.
The film follows Isaac (Jonathan French), a man who’s recently had an accident and seems to be struggling to get his life back together. When his friend, Moe (Ben Caplan) offers him a few days work for a decent amount of cash, Isaac jumps at the offer; especially as all it entails is looking after Moe’s niece Olga (Leila Sykes). Whilst Moe does explain that that house is remote, and that Olga is going through some mental health issues due to the death of her father and her mother going missing, he doesn’t mention that the house is on an isolated island, and that Isaac will have to wear a special vest with a chain attached that will limit where he can go in the house.
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Despite these caveats to the deal Isaac agrees to stay with Olga. Due to Olga’s mental health issues, however, she spends a great deal of time uncommunicative, leaving Isaac to try and fill his time as best he can, searching through the old, rundown house. When strange things begin to happen, however, Isaac starts to question whether or not he might be safe here, and how he might be able to escape.
Even without the strange set-up, Caveat is a bit of an odd film, and there were times towards the beginning of the movie where I wasn’t sure what kind of film this was going to be. The idea of being taken out to a remote location that you can’t escape from and literally chained in place to stop you leaving sounds like a set-up for a film where Isaac is going to be chased through the halls by a frightening Saw-like killer. But when you start hearing strange whispers in the walls, and things begin to move on their own you start to wonder if perhaps there’s something a bit more supernatural going on here too.
Caveat seems to like to stay in this confusing middle-space, and it keeps you guessing for much of the movie. The characters make mention of some kind of accident that Isaac has suffered recently, and uses this sense of mystery to keep a lot of drama happening on screen, and the slow reveal of backstory makes for some of the better parts of the film.
This is the first feature length film from writer/director Damian Mc Carthy, and I would have struggled to have known that. I’ve seen a lot of first time movies over the years, and there’s often a level of quality to them that the films fail to meet. They’re not as creative with the camerawork, they don’t take many risks, and they look pretty average at best. Caveat, by comparison, is really nicely put together in places, and some of the long, creepy shots of the old, rundown house where the main action takes place really help to set the scene.
Whilst the location feels as much a character in the film thanks to the aforementioned work from the director, the core cast is quite small, with only three principal players involved in the drama. Jonathan French does a great job as Isaac, and really sells the idea that he’s kind of lost, drifting through the days. He manages to come across as pretty likeable, despite us knowing nothing about him, and you do start to root for him as things get more and more bizarre around him. Leila Sykes does a pretty good job in the role of Olga, and she manages to walk a fine line between being just a little strange and being quite disturbingly creepy, and you never really know how she’s going to go from scene to scene.
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As well as the film, the new DVD release comes with some storyboards, and two full length commentary tracks. These two commentaries, one with the director and one with the producer, are definitely worth a listen to. there are no real behind the scenes extras or ‘making-of” features, so the commentaries are where viewers can learn more about the film. They’re pretty entertaining, and offer insight into how the film was made, and what it was like making a first feature film for many of the people involved in the production.
Caveat is a strange film, one that seems to blend together elements from a few different horror genres and tries to do something interesting with it. Whilst it’s not perfect by any means, it does do really well with what it has, and you can see the passion and skill of those involved coming to the fore.