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  • Writer's pictureMaxwell J.

There’s No Caveat (2021) Here, Go Watch It Now!

Title: Caveat

First Wide Release: June 5, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)

Director: Damian Mc Carthy

Writer: Damian Mc Carthy

Runtime: 88 Minutes

Starring: Ben Caplan, Jonathan French, Leila Sykes

Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here

A young man named Isaac (Jonathan French), who has a blurry and mysterious past, is asked to watch his friend’s (Ben Caplan) sister (Leila Sykes) at their family home for a week. What starts as a promising way to make a quick buck turns to something more sinister when Isaac discovers that his friend was not completely honest about the conditions of this favor. Isolated by distance, stuck on an island, and without transportation home, Isaac is convinced to be chained to the wall via a bulky leather harness as to not upset the sister’s debilitating fear of being assaulted in the night by strange men. Now, alone with a stranger, Isaac will learn the truth behind the crumbling home and mysterious disappearances that have plagued the family.

A quiet, slow-burn mystery, Caveat is dominated by creeping tension and atmospheric dread.

A deviation from much of the horror content being created right now, Caveat induces more shivers than scares. A quiet horror with a confined setting, small cast, and eerie imagery, the minimalistic approach Caveat uses to unsettle its viewers pays off in dividends by the film’s creepy ending. Much of this is done through dark, moody cinematography and exquisite set design. The house in Caveat is out of everyone’s imagination on what a dilapidated and haunted home looks and breathes like.

Much of the disorientation and atmosphere of Caveat is afforded by its setup and script. As soon as Isaac is in chains, we know that this film will be a little different. There’s a level of trust inherent to letting someone immobilize you in an unfamiliar place. The odd thing is, Isaac cannot remember just how he knows Barret. As Isaac struggles with his memory, he must contend with Olga’s erratic behavior and the growing truth behind a presence haunting the property. His motivation is not only to discover the truths behind his temporary sleeping quarters but to uncover what has happened to him and why he cannot remember anything.

The beauty behind Caveat is its ambiguity. The mystery behind why Isaac is there eventually does get an answer, but it’s not a full one. Themes of mental illness and intergenerational trauma are thrown around and can stick with enough clues that support the hypothesis. Whatever meaning you find in Caveat is one that is possible given its relatively loose structure and open plot. Regardless of the open interpretation, there’s a level of confidence in the filmmaking that emanates more experience than one would expect out of a directorial debut. Hats off to Damian Mc Carthy for crafting such a well-shaped vision of gloom.

Caveat won’t be a slam dunk for every horror fan. Its pacing will alienate viewers, as its slow burn style permeates the first seventy minutes or so, before a rather rushed, and incomplete, ending. Its score, while ambient, feels out of place at times and tonally jarring when compared to the action onscreen. Characters aren’t given much depth and ultimately feel more like plot devices than people, despite solid performances by the small cast. The story itself has a few plot holes and unresolved points that can call for extra scrutiny. In the end, it feels like a tease of what’s to come rather than a full story.

What it lacks in plot, Caveat makes up for in more reserved, visceral scares and solid production values, despite its modest budget. Viewers who appreciate a more visual experience will appreciate its haunting and striking imagery juxtaposed against its wavy and philosophical storyline. Likely to be buried underneath more bombastic and gimmicky horror films of the year, I suggest you seek out this dark gem for a rainy night. Tether this indie horror film to your Shudder streaming queue and thank yourself later when this review is only but a dormant memory.

Overall Score? 7/10

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