Damian Mc Carthy makes a wonderful feature length directing debut with Caveat, a creepy and captivating horror film which has scares as well as a few well-placed chuckles. This low budget independent Irish film delivers the goods, making it a fantastic calling card for its director and ensuring a great time for its audience.
Jonathan French’s Isaac is hired by the shady Barrett (Ben Caplan) to look after his niece Olga (Leila Sykes), who lives alone on a dilapidated house on a deserted island following her father’s suicide. It seems like easy money but once he gets there, Barrett informs Isaac that he must wear a harness which will keep him restricted to certain areas of the house. Things get really weird once Barrett leaves – cue strange noises, creepy paintings and a toy bunny that looks like it belongs to a baby Babadook.
Mc Carthy is a resourceful filmmaker who has crafted a genre movie which is loaded with atmosphere (the director also edits the film). It has its scares, but there are a few very funny moments which help break the tension – a scene with a corpse is a particular stand-out. Central to Caveat is the three strong performances from the film’s cast. Jonathan French is excellent as the man with a mysterious past who finds himself in an incredibly strange situation. Caplan makes for a convincing villain who is as charming as he is duplicitous. Meanwhile, Leila Sykes Olga is a complex character who isn’t as weak or feeble as she seems (she’s also very handy with a crossbow).
Cinematographer Kieran Fitzgerald creates some striking visuals and he makes the most of Damian Draven’s stark and bleak sets. Richard G. Mitchell’s score creates tension and an uneasy quality which perfectly suits the film’s off-kilter imagery. All the technical credits are strong.
A little gem of a horror film, Caveat might have a small budget but it delivers some strong scares and shows that Damian Mc Carthy is a interesting new voice in genre cinema.
Caveat is out now on Shudder.