Caveat (2020)

Director: Damian Mc Carthy
Writer: Damian Mc Carthy
Cast: Ben Caplan, Jonathan French, Leila Sykes
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 28.9.2021

Content Note: ableism/saneism

Moe (Ben Caplan) is looking for somebody who can keep an eye on his niece Olga (Leila Sykes). Olga is mentally ill, has recently lost both her parents and is now holed up in a house on a remote island. When Moe hears about Isaac (Jonathan French), an acquaintaince who was recently released from the hospital and is in need of some cash, he asks him. Isaac is hesitant, he doesn’t feel like he is the right person for the job. But ultimately Moe wins him over. Once at the island, though, things get stranger and stranger for Isaac.

Oh well. Caveat was a bit of a mess, I’m afraid, quickly turning quite frustrating. Ultimately I wished that I had skipped this past-midnight screening and instead had gone to bed earlier.

The film poster showing the eye and ear of a toy bunny in front of a black background.

I got the distinct feeling that Caveat was trying so hard to surprise the audience and keep us on our toes that it stopped to ask itself whether any of it still made sense in the first place. That starts with the bunny that is featured on the film poster. The way the film uses it became pretty emblematic for me for the film as a whole. It’s an awesome prop and the way it starts drumming erratically does have quite the creep factor. It just doesn’t fit with the story the film tells that doesn’t actually have any supernatural elements where the bunny (or the painting) would make sense.

That’s not the film’s only narrative problem, though. Starting with the fact that it mentions way too late that Isaac suffers from amnesia to small irritants like Isaac leaving to stay five days with Olga and not even packing a toothbrush or a change of clothes. And then there’s the really big stuff that had me question the story as a whole, like why Moe would ask Isaac to do this job in the first place. It made no sense to me. Plus, Olga’s mental illness is just a prop in the film (when it isn’t a trope) and that was quite ableist.

Olga (Leila Sykes) huddling next to her bed, hands in front of her eyes.

Finally, apart from some good moments (most involving the bunny), the film seemed to have one trick to try to ramp up the tension, and that one trick quickly didn’t work anymore. Especially since a lot of the film is just a black screen with sounds. That can be a good method to set the right mood, but only when used sparingly. When you overdo it like this, it’s just boring.

Since the atmosphere just wasn’t creepy anymore after a while, things started to become involuntarily funny and a little ridiculous. It left me feeling frustrated with the film and wishing for my bed.

Isaac (Jonathan French) looking suspiciously at something while wearing a harness.

Summarizing: not for me.

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