A lone drifter suffering from partial memory loss accepts a job to look after a psychologically troubled woman in an abandoned house on an isolated island.

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A lone drifter accepts a job to look after a psychologically troubled woman in . Issac (), a drifter suffering from memory loss, is offered a job by his landlord Barret () to look after his niece Olga () for five days, offering to pay Issac $200 a day. Issac arrives at the house on an isolated island and quickly learns that there is a caveat to the job – Issac must be locked in a harness attached to a long chain, which prevents him from entering certain rooms of the house, including Olga's. Thus begins a cat and mouse game, as Issac slowly uncovers the horrifying secrets that reside in the house.

Caveat is the debut feature film from Irish writer/director Damian Mc Carthy. The stage is set in a completely unnerving opening scene, as the psychologically troubled Olga walks alone in the isolated house, where the majority of the action takes place, carrying a drumming rabbit doll that will haunt your dreams. This sets the stage for the main plot of the film, as the protagonist Issac accepts a job to look after Olga, without realizing the caveat of having to wear a chained harness. Olga moves back and forth between having psychological fits in her bedroom and walking around the house carrying a crossbow. If this wasn't disturbing enough for Issac, he slowly begins to regain his memory and learn that this job isn't as simple as it seems.

With Caveat, filmmaker Damian Mc Carthy has created a horror film that emphasizes slowly building tension over repeated jump scares. Featuring an incredibly small cast of only three central characters, the film keeps you guessing until pretty much the final five minutes whether the source of the film's horror is human, supernatural, or somewhere in between. Indeed, probably the most chilling element of the film is Olga's rabbit doll, which you know is going to start drumming at some point, yet you never know when it's going to happen. Olga herself is an interesting character, who borders between sympathetic and antagonist, particularly in the latter half of the film.

While Caveat is ultimately successful at building tension, I do have to admit that the film doesn't quite stick the ending, as it follows a quite well-executed final scare with a rather sudden and anti-climactic conclusion. The plot also slows down in the third act, as it switches to an extended flashback caused by Issac regaining his memory. There's also an early flashback of Olga remembering how awful a person her missing mother is, which comes off as unintentionally comedic.

Despite my late-film criticisms, Caveat is still ultimately a well-executed and quite unnerving at times horror film.

Caveat premieres exclusively on Shudder, on Thursday, June 3, 2021

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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