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Review: You won't forget drumming bunny in horror thriller 'Caveat'

In writer-director Damian McCarthy's promising debut film, a man is sent to look after a woman who has just endured a tragedy. And about that bunny...

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A drifter is sent to a remote house to look over a man's niece for a few days. He'll be paid handsomely for his time. Ah, but there's a caveat: he must wear a leather harness and stay chained to a stake in the basement at all times. 

That's the premise for "Caveat," the moody and suspenseful debut film from Irish writer-director Damian McCarthy. He does a lot with a little, creating a creepy atmosphere and building a palpable sense tension inside his confined world. Even if his ending gets a bit convoluted, he still leaves a lasting impression and makes a name for himself in the horror world moving forward. 

Jonathan French in "Caveat."

Jonathan French plays Isaac, who is hired by Barret (Ben Caplan) to go check on his niece Olga (Leila Sykes) for a few days following the death of her father, Barret's brother. Olga is in a state of near catatonia, so Isaac just needs to make sure she's OK and not in any danger. But oh yeah, there's that whole leather harness thing, and also the house is located on a small island. (The devil is always in the details.) 

Isaac — we know nothing about him or his past, which benefits the story — needs the money, so he goes along with the plan. But there's weirdness inside the house, including a drumming bunny figure that occasionally manages to come to life, and some buried secrets in the basement that deepen the mysteries of the house and why Isaac was sent there in the first place. 

The house, which is in a near-dilapidated state, is as rich as any of the small cast of human characters, and McCarthy gets a lot of mileage out of its old intercom system and its round cut-outs in the walls. McCarthy only gives viewers as much information as they need, adding in layers as he goes. Things get a bit wonky along the final stretch, and the Irishman can't quite stick the landing. But there's plenty here to admire and it will be exciting to see where he goes next. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Caveat'

GRADE: B

Not rated: Terror, suspense, language

Running time: 87 minutes

On Shudder