Caveat is 2020 British horror film about a lone drifter who accepts a job looking after a troubled woman in an abandoned house.
Written, edited and directed by Damian McCarthy – making his feature debut – the Hynesight Films production stars Ben Caplan, Tiffany-Ellen Robinson, Jonathan French and Conor Dwane.
A lone drifter, Isaac, suffering from partial memory loss, accepts a strange job from his old landlord Barrett, to look after his niece Olga, a psychologically troubled woman living in an abandoned house on an isolated island.
When Barrett convinces Isaac to confine his movements to the house with a harness contraption and leaves the two of them alone, a game of cat and mouse ensues with Isaac fighting to survive amid the terrifying resurgence of his own memory…
” …the film surely possesses some promising elements – in particular, the great acting, the clever production design and skilful cinematography, as well as the director’s attempt to steer clear of the genre’s main clichés, such as the overuse of jump scares or overexplanatory diegetic music – but it fails to deliver a consistent, engaging narrative.” Cineuropa
“Ignoring shaky late-stage storytelling, Caveat capably coughs up macabre moodiness and sinister suggestiveness like few low-budget fright films can. On somewhat of a shoestring, writer/director Damian Mc Carthy puts together a visually impressive chamber chiller with just three actors in one location without ever cheating viewers into feeling like they have to mentally make up for resource-restricted shortcomings.” Culture Crypt
“The story gets vague at times, and I can definitely see some people getting frustrated with the ending, which is a completely subjective experience. And there’s miles of symbolism if you want to follow that particular road. Just give the thing time, and it will work its magic.” Dread Central
“The cast is terrific, and all three leads sell the film by taking the material seriously and imbuing their characters with depth and purpose. It’s not a terrifying film, but it will undoubtedly get under your skin, and certain scenes will live in your memory after the credits roll.” Edge Media Network
“What’s fun as a viewer is that you don’t know which of the characters to believe as they are all unreliable narrators. That forces you to enter into a guessing game and as the tension escalates, you’ll find your mind changing frequently. On the downside, the film has some pacing issues, which means it lulls a little more than it should.” Entertainment Focus
“The atmosphere of Caveat is stunning, with creepy set design and a sense of dread that pervades throughout the film […] Basically a three-hander, the film’s cast members all turn in gripping performances, with French leading the way as a confused man whose mental faculties will be pushed to the brink. Caveat is a hypnotic, bleak, enigmatic chiller that fans of eldritch horror cinema should go out of their way to see.” Ghastly Grinning
“Rife with unreliable narrators, an isolated, labyrinthine house with secrets and holes in its walls, and a deeply unsettling but remarkably protective toy rabbit, Caveat sharpens your nerves before you even get the chance to settle in. You start on the edge of your seat and, for the most part, you either stay there or jump so hard you fall off. There is so much to love with this film.” Killer Horror Critic
“Caplan gives the showiest performance, matey and sinister at the same time, but French and Sykes are subtly compelling as the trapped, frayed psyches. The dilapidated old house […] is wonderfully used: it’s an amazingly uncomfortable-seeming, grubby, cold, inhospitable home. It knows the ghost story game well enough to privilege creeping dread over tying up all the plot ends…” The Kim Newman Web Site
“If it opens like an adaptation of some lost Poe tale, or a late addition to BBC’s ‘Ghost Stories at Christmas’ canon, Caveat climaxes in EC Comics fashion, with a final twist deserving of its own lurid splash page. What’s so impressive about McCarthy’s film is how smooth this transition plays out.” The Movie Waffler
” …the story that follows from the premise is interesting as well, involving manipulated memories, “here before” revelations, and several loose ends satisfyingly tied up. But Caveat asks you to accept so many implausibilities along the way, only to be rewarded with a watching experience akin to waiting for a teeth cleaning, that the terms ruin the deal…” Rue Morgue
“Damian Mc Carthy’s debut feature is a tense, claustrophobic thriller that gradually makes its mark on the viewer. Stunningly shot by Kieran Fitzgerald, every part of the run-down house seems to hold a sinister presence, not least a toy clockwork rabbit banging a drum, which is the stuff of nightmares. The imposing soundscape adds to the terrifying quality, building up more dread than any jump scare could.” Starburst
“Appropriately enough the ending is more quietly chilling than frantic and disquieting rather than definitive. There’s just enough doubt left after the final fade to keep you thinking about it after it’s over. If you can deal with it’s slow-burn pacing and plot contrivances, Caveat has a lot to offer.” Voices from the Balcony
“Writer/Director Damian McCarthy creates a story with so many levels, layers and surprises that there’s no possible way for even the smartest viewer to possibly guess what will happen next. And skillfully anchored by equally thoughtful turns by both Jonathan French and Leila Sykes as the two housebound inhabitants, this is one tasty outing that should be viewed with the strict caveat of going in cold.” Why So Blu?
“McCarthy has crafted a unique scenario that peels back ever-darkening layers like Olga’s childhood home’s old paint and wallpaper. He deftly creates mood and texture and makes excellent use of his small, fine cast. McCarthy’s Caveat is intelligent, unpredictable, and creepy as hell.” Without Your Head
Having premiered at Frightfest in the UK, it was announced that Dark Sky Films planned to release Caveat theatrically in the US in early 2021 but didn’t happen due to the pandemic.
The film has now been acquired by Shudder, with the movie set to stream on the platform on June 3, 2021. Their PR release says: “With slow-building tension, Caveat balances creepy interiors with the beauty of Cork’s countryside to stunning visual effect. Playing out like a thoughtful, long-lost 80s chiller, Caveat leads the audience on a path of twist and turns to an unforgettable resolution.”
Cast and characters:
Ben Caplan … Barret
Conor Dwane … Olga’s dad
Jonathan French … Isaac
Leila Sykes … Olga
Bantry House, Bantry, County Cork, Ireland
A production shot posted on IMDb featuring the cast and crew suggests that principal photography wrapped in 2017 and the film was titled The Harness at the time.