When Barret asks Isaac to watch over his adult niece, Olga, Isaac is immediately suspicious. Maybe it’s because Barret is offering $200 a day to “keep her company.” Or because Barret is evasive, and Isaac has to drag answers out of him. First it’s “I don’t like her out there alone.” Then, when pressed, Barret admits: “She goes into these states, she gets confused, but she’s harmless.”
“There’s got to be more to it than that,” says Isaac. And, well, there is.
Let’s step back for just a moment. If you have a niece who has enough psychological problems that she requires a live-in caretaker, you would hire a nurse. Not someone like Isaac, an unemployed drifter recovering from accident-related memory loss. And this is perhaps what Isaac is thinking as well, but he needs the $200 so he goes along with it.
And yes, there’s more to it than that. There are specific stipulations, conditions, and limitations, especially around Isaac’s freedom of movement. When Olga has more lucid moments, she tells him stories that make Isaac wonder if Barret had a more sinister reason for hiring him instead of a qualified nurse.
Caveat is Irish director Damian Mc Carthy’s first feature film, and he served as director, writer, and editor. The movie reminded me a lot of The Lighthouse. It’s very visual, has an extremely small cast (essentially just three major characters), and the ghostly influence in the building seems more environmental than malignant. But where The Lighthouse is self-indulgent, Caveat is economical. Eggers was too much in love with his antique camera equipment, black and white film stock, and actors (accent on the “tors”). Caveat doesn’t have the budget to spare.
Caveat takes visual cues from torture-porn films like Saw but lacks the gore. It is atmospheric, tense, quiet, spooky, and the ending is both very satisfying and makes absolute sense, which is rare enough in horror of any age, but especially difficult to pull off in the haunted-house subgenre. It may be low-budget, but Mc Carthy took the work seriously and didn’t try to stretch to get digital effects beyond his reach — so much so that I didn’t even think about the budget once while watching the film.
Definitely seek this one out. Its streaming debut was on Shudder in June 2021.