CAVEAT Review – A Claustrophobic Haunted Madhouse


Caveat written and directed by Damian Mc Carthy

Starring Leila Sykes, Jonathan French, Ben Caplan

I’m pretty wary of films that seem like they might get gimmicky. Filmmakers can sometimes use a clever gimmick as a replacement for an interesting story. Damian Mc Carthy’s Caveat seemed like it could have been one of those movies, but it was so much more than its central conceit might at first imply. You’ll hardly believe this is Mc Carthy’s first feature.

Caveat concerns Isaac (Jonathan French), a man with partial memory loss who’s offered a job by Moe Barret (Ben Caplan), a supposed old friend, though Isaac can’t remember interacting with him before. The job would require Isaac to look after Barret’s mentally disturbed niece, Olga (Leila Sykes), who’s staying alone in her decrepit family home after her mother disappeared and her father committed suicide. The catch, the, uh, caveat, if you will, is that Isaac has to be locked into a cruddy leather vest that’s tethered to a chain. The chain only allows him to reach certain parts of the house, and it won’t let him go outside. One of those off-limits spaces is Olga’s bedroom. Another, unfortunately, is the bathroom.

The film is fairly minimalist, with basically the three major characters. And the house is the only major location. Spending so much time in the house creates a claustrophobic effect that contributes greatly to the supernatural atmosphere that makes the story so compelling. 

Also Read: Trailer for CAVEAT Coming to Shudder June 3rd

Or maybe it’s not a supernatural story. This is one of those films where the supernatural stuff might be real or a product of the characters’ imagination. Caveat is so psychologically subjective that there’s no single answer. And that’s fine. Sometimes the images of the unconscious are a cypher that can’t be decoded.

Like so much arthouse horror, it’s the psychology of the experience that matters. It’s a visceral experience. A lot of this has to do with the excellent sound design. You can feel the clanging of the metal chains in your bones, as well as the creaking of the old leather that the vest is made of. But there’s a lot of other elements that add to the experience. For instance, though several jump scares are teased, they never actually happen. The tension builds but there’s never the relieved release that you feel after a jump scare fades and there’s a sense of calm and security again. 

Caveat is almost an hour and a half, which is a good length for the type of story Mc Carthy is telling. Amazingly, the majority of the film’s drama comes from the interplay between just two characters – Isaac and Olga – as they take turns tormenting each other, though they also take turns dancing around each other in an attempt at understanding. Caveat is proof that you don’t need a ton of sets or characters to make a compelling movie. 

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. The super subjective nature of a film in which you’ll inevitably see each of the main characters alternate as hero and villain means that the outside world we occasionally see in flashbacks becomes almost unimportant when contrasted with the increasingly hallucinogenic, subjective world within the house. Caveat is quite the dark adventure, and as long as you can tolerate a film that’s open-ended and a touch experimental, you’re going to get quite a kick out of the thing.

  • Caveat


Caveat is a psychologically engaging film that fans of experimental horror are sure to enjoy.



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