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  Caveat Chains And Chills
Year: 2020
Director: Damian McCarthy
Stars: Ben Caplan, Conor Dwayne, Jonathan French, Leila Sykes
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Isaac (Jonathan French) has been given an offer that, on the face of it, sounds like easy money, two hundred pounds a day to babysit the niece of his acquaintance Barret (Ben Caplan), for anything up to five days. What could possibly go wrong? Ah, but here is where the caveats come in: Isaac has to spend that time sharing a house with her, twenty-four hours a day. And that house is an old, crumbling mansion on an island - he cannot swim, and there is no way off but the boat, which Barret needs to return to the shore. And the young woman, Olga (Leila Sykes), has a phobia of men...

It goes on - since Olga has this phobia to negotiate, Isaac must be harnessed in an anti-sleepwalking device that involved a leather tunic locked to a long chain that is attached to the basement. Understandably, he protests, as if he had been aware all this was involved, he would not have agreed to the job in the first place, though his concerns are soothed by his supposed friend informing him that it hardly matters anyway, since the young woman spends most of her time catatonic with fear. And so it is, when we are introduced to her, she is sitting on the floor of her room with her hands over her face.

If you're thinking, okay, this sounds strange, well, it's a horror movie, and director Damian McCarthy was doing his best to creep you out, not least thanks to the location he chose, an actual house in County Cork that on this evidence has seen far better days. With a time frame that shifts so much that not only are you eventually uncertain of what year Isaac is in, you are not sure if it was meant to be set in the nineteen-sixties, seventies or later (the usual tell of mobile phone technology was noticeably absent, but not necessarily proof of anything concrete) and that established the mood of unease they were after.

Particularly when merely spending time watching the hero in those chilly environs had you worrying about catching something by osmosis through the screen, so strong was the atmosphere McCarthy evoked. And there was more to it than that, as we quickly discover Olga's father committed suicide in the basement when he was locked down there, though she is sceptical about the truth of that assessment - yes, she does finally wake up and hold a conversation with Isaac, yet such is their mistrust they can hardly stand to be in the same room as one another and as time draws on they work out ways to outwit each other, though Olga is the one who is a dab hand with the crossbow bolts.

In fact, there was so much mystery here that it was a pity the film overburdened itself with it and was unable to wrap itself up as neatly as you may have wished. There was a point, around two-thirds of the way through at the hour stage, that you begin to feel the story getting away from the project and the weight of all those tics and quirks collapsed in on themselves, leaving the characters crawling from the rubble (not literally, but there is a degree of crawling to be seen). Nevertheless, for that hour Caveat had been one of the better horror debuts of the twenty-twenties, indicating with a firmer grasp on the material and not a conclusion that just went, eh, some stuff happened, McCarthy could continue to captivate. It was so impressively assembled, with its drumming rabbit toy a Jan Svankmajer throwback the master animator himself would approve of, that you could forgive the slackening of the last act. Music by Richard G. Mitchell.

[CAVEAT - Premieres 3 June 2021 - A Shudder Original Film.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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