I preface this review as I do with all others by stating I am not a professional movie critic; I do not get paid for that. I am simply a professional writer and an avid movie enthusiast and I love actors and the art which they perform.
Caveat, the directorial debut from Irish filmmaker Damen McCarthy is a horror movie that leaves you wondering throughout, is this just a creepy, psychological situation here or are there supernatural elements? The film premiered at the IndieCork Film Festival in Ireland on 4 October 2020. It was released to Shudder, the horror streaming network, in 2021. You can watch it there or on VUDU.
Jonathan French stars as Isaac, a drifter suffering from partial memory loss who accepts a job to look after a psychologically disturbed woman in a house on a secluded island. The “disturbed woman”, Olga, played by Leila Sykes, suffers from catatonic states and could quite possibly be either schizophrenia, bi-polar or both or neither and just screwed in the head by the apparent strange conditions in the home in which she was living with her father. Isaac was hired by Moe, Olga’s uncle, to watch her for a few days because of her mental condition. Moe appears to be a friend of Isaac, who has very sketchy memory due to an accident.
Isaac accepts the task and goes to the isolated house on an island in Cork, Ireland. The house is, as one would expect, creepy. There is a condition that Isaac must agree to, wearing a harness with a “leash” while he is there. We learn a great deal during the movie – Olga’s father was wearing the harness and locked in the basement when he shot himself in the head with a cross bow. That same cross bow was in the hands of Olga when she first presented herself to Isaac. The two play a cat and mouse game during the movie and while it’s difficult to ascertain whether it is supernatural or not, the darkness in the movie is thick.
The ending reveals answers to questions that arise during the movie and as Isaac’s memory slowly returns in pieces, fitting pieces of the puzzle together for the audience.
This movie was extremely creepy. The cinematography was fantastic and McCarthy’s style is reminiscent of The Witch by Robert Eggers. There are only four characters in this script and only two, Isaac and Olga, carry most of the show. The difficulty of performance in a movie with very little dialogue is high but actor Jonathan French nails it in this. His facial expressions, mannerisms and delivery of the lines that were there was brilliant. Leila Sykes was outstanding as Orga, making a believable mentally disturbed characterThe story itself was dark and had the mood of an Ambrose Bierce horror story., with a feeling of foreboding throughout the film.
I would recommend this film for any horror fan that can appreciate a slow burn, because that is what this film is, a slow burn. Great job by Damien McCarthy on his first feature film and to Jonathan French for playing his character in a manner which carried the film and delivered the creepiness they were aiming for.