If the film industry bought into the hype of stock/crypto trading, the name Damian McCarthy would be one worth a serious investment. The emerging Irish writer-director has debuted with a knockout of a feature in Caveat, a brilliant cat-and-mouse horror that plays like the intelligent love child of Edgar Allen Poe and the Saw franchise. It’s only a matter of time before he gets the funding to make major thrillers with all the filmmaking efficiency on display here.
Featuring a very creepy toy bunny, the effectively simple premise revolves around a lone, amnesiac drifter on the mend, named Isaac (Jonathan French), who agrees to look after a troubled young woman called Olga (Leila Sykes) on the request of her uncle Moe (Ben Caplan), an old friend to Isaac. For the decent price of a grand for five days of work, Isaac commits to taking care of Olga, despite an unusual working condition: he has to attach himself to her with a leather harness.
Spending the initial day like a typical guard, minding his own business while focusing on her with the eyes in the back of his head, his safety and sanity is threatened by disturbing sounds, sights and movements around the house – not least Olga’s violent tugging of the harness and the sight of her walking around with a crossbow. The unnerving atmosphere recalls one the best entries of the Resident Evil game series, in which singular settings are repeatedly recontextualised through subtle shifts that clue the protagonist into something far more terrifying than they previously imagined. Though it makes one wonder how much further McCarthy could go with a bigger budget, Caveat proves that horror films only need a strong imagination to be scary.
McCarthy’s imagination runs deep, creating a lot of intrigue around the mysterious occurrences in the home and answering many of the questions raised. Though there will still be some uncertainties left after the credits roll, audiences will appreciate the thrill ride of it all. It’s a terrific breakthrough for the filmmaker, who’s heavily aided by his excellent cast and that damned toy bunny.
Caveat is released on 3rd June 2021.
Watch the trailer for Caveat here: