Child-minding at £200 a day – sounds good? But there is a very big Caveat. RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES looks at Irish-shot chiller, Caveat 2020.
RELEASED: 25 October 2020 (UK Fright Fest), 28 February 2022 (UK Blu-ray)
WRITER/DIRCTOR: Damian McCarthy
CAST: Ben Caplan, Jonathan French, Leila Sykes
Caveat 2020 REVIEW
Isaac (French) has been recently released from hospital, suffering from amnesia. Knowing him to be on hard times, apparent old-friend Barret (Ben Caplan) offers him what seems to be a simple way to make some quick money – a five-day gig child-sitting Barret’s niece, Olga (Sykes) at the incredible rate of £200 a day.
Sounds too good to be true, right? And there is, indeed, a caveat.
Olga (who turns out to be much older than expected) is holed-up in a dilapidated house, the sole dwelling on an island. She is prone to psychotic episodes and is fearful of anyone entering her room at night. Hence, Isaac is required to wear a chained and locked harness, which limits his movement so that he can move around most of the house freely, but not beyond Olga’s bedroom door.
Olga’s room has little in the way of possessions, but she retains a beloved toy, a grotesque figure of a rabbit with human eyes which plays a drum whenever it detects any menace (Imagine if Jan Švankmajer had been commissioned to create the Duracell bunny. Yes, it’s that creepy).
More that Barret hasn’t mentioned: Olga’s father was claustrophobic and committed suicide in the basement, her recently missing mother is mentally unstable, and there are strange things happening in the house that can’t be accounted for.
Oh, and Olga’s pretty handy with a crossbow…
Whilst one might initially wonder why on earth Isaac would agree to continue with the assignment once he knows the full score, the gradual reveal of his past memories coming back to him gives the viewer the puzzle pieces to assemble some kind of reasoning, but not so much as to make the film’s reveal and conclusion overly tidy – it’s a delicate balancing act, which Caveat deftly gets away with.
Caveat certainly feels like a film that’s been made on minimal resources, but that works to its advantage for this is a tale whose minimalism speaks volumes. There’s no flashy effects, just refreshingly old-school practical cuts that give the impression of pictures changing pose of their own accord, objects moving unaided and, at a crucial and climactic point a corpse shifting its position…
Damien Draven’s production design is perfectly on-point, with the shabby island dwelling looking like its surroundings are doing their utmost to swallow it up whilst the economically utilised score-cum-sound-scheme from Richard G. Mitchell permeates the whole caboodle with brooding menace.
Caveat 2020 creates its own atmosphere and for those willing to lose themselves in it for an hour-and-a-half, it’s a tense, disquieting and genuinely under-the-skin unnerving experience. For his opening feature salvo, Damian McCarthy has pulled off a blinder.
NOTES ON THE BLU-RAY: Acorn’s release comes furnished with two audio commentaries, one from director Damian McCarthy, whilst the other provides the perspective of producer Justin Hyne.
A very welcome and unusual bonus comes in the form of the film’s original storyboards: It’s not uncommon to have a couple of selected scenes accompanied by their concept artwork in the special features section, but it’s a real treat for the anoraks amongst us to be able to watch Caveat in this manner, in its entirety – the juxtaposition of the cartoonish sketches with the film proper makes for a strangely disorientating alternative viewing experience.
Have you seen Caveat 2020? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!