Caveat is about Isaac (Jonathan French) is a young drifter with some mild memory loss who is in serious need of money. Like a lot of people in that situation he is susceptible to being preyed on by an overbearing landlord, in this case a man named Barrett (Ben Caplan). See, Barrett has a troubled niece named Olga (Leila Sykes) and he needs someone to look after her.
The deal is simple, Isaac stays in the isolated house with Olga overnight and in return he gets a large sum of money… oh, and for Olga’s safety he is to be put in a leather harness with a chain that heavily restricts his movements. Since that seemed legit, the night begins and Isaac seems to be OK… until memories from his past start coming back up and he soon finds himself on Olga’s bad side, and Olga doesn’t have a harness on but she does have a crossbow so that might not exactly make things easy on Isaac.
Mostly Good, With One Caveat
From the moment Caveat begins, you can tell we’re working with a piece that’s less about outright jumpscares and more about an unnerving tension that flows throughout the film. There’s a strange oppressive feeling to everything, made even more extreme once we’re fully locked inside the house and the claustrophobia sets in. There aren’t really that many jumpscares for most of the film, it’s a lot of build up and unease that grows with every new weird little thing that happens to our protagonist.
I won’t lie, for about the first hour of the film, Caveat is definitely a slow burner. It’s less concerned with scaring and more with setup and tension building than anything else. You might even find yourself wandering a little at some points but oh boy once that final act kicks in… because the final act is absolutely bonkers in the best possible way. It’s one of those acts that makes you sit up straight and just wonder where this rollercoaster is going to go and turns out, it’s going into wackyland.
Part of the reason that the genuinely weird ending works is everyone’s performances, particularly Isaac and Olga, who we spend the most time with. They’re fairly understated, little dialogue but a lot of thinking through the situation they’ve found themselves in. There’s a simplicity there, just watching these two characters going through an elaborate cat and mouse game is so easy to follow that when it’s time for the weird stuff to pop up, you’re not lost… a little confused maybe, but not lost.
That slow burn start does make it a little bit of a sit at first, just trying to keep paying attention when there aren’t as many scares as one might want can be tough for some people. While the atmosphere is certainly great and holds for most of the film, it ends up holding on one note so long that it’s kind of inevitable that you’re going to get a tiny bit bored so I implore you to stick it out just to get to the end of this one, it’s worth it.
Caveat is one of those feature length directional debut films that really gets you excited to see what comes next, in this case for director/writer Damian Mc Carthy who created something weird, interesting and original. While there are some moments that feel like they needed a little more of a kick, on the whole Caveat is a creepy little number that’s got enough going for it to make for a fun night in.
Caveat is available now, exclusively on Shudder
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