When George Lucas re-re-messed with the original Star Wars trilogy he added a scene in Return Of The Jedi that shows Darth Vader leaving the forest moon of Endor back to the Death Star. In the original theatrical release of the movie, it cuts from his scene on Endor back to him on the Death Star, talking to Emperor Palpatine. No shot of the shuttle taking off and zooming through the stratosphere. Audiences understood that time elapsed and that Vader did not magically materialize onto the destructive Imperial weapon. Adding that scene showed viewers exactly how little faith Lucas has in them to follow action of any kind. That disrespect to moviegoers is one of the reasons fans turned on him as harshly as they did. This is a perfect example of a movie talking down to its audience.
On the opposite side are those movies that fail to explain enough to audiences to make the experience worth their time. David Lynch (in)famously makes films that are opaque but the journey they take you on is unprecedented, and you at least feel like the story and characters went somewhere. Those are not the kind of films meant here. Instead, movies that are so ambiguous, that answer precisely nothing they set up, that feature zero payoff, those movies that rip the audiences time and investment off are what is referenced. Caught is that movie, in the most exasperating manner.
It is 1972 and husband and wife journalist team, Andrew (Ruben Crow) and Julie (April Summer), live on the English countryside with their school-age son Toby (Aaron Davis) and baby daughter. They are investigating an odd military convoy that showed up on the far side of the moor where they live. While developing photos and writing a draft of their initial idea about it, Mr. and Mrs. Blair (Cian Barry and April Pearson) knock on the door. This new, clean-cut looking couple get Andrew and Julie to let them in, under false pretenses. Serving tea to their guests, Mr. and Mrs. Blair look at the dishware as if they never seen a cup before. This gives the news-writers bad vibes, and they request the other people leave. This does not sit well with the Blairs who get angrier and then demand to have back what was ‘“caught” of them, with Mrs. Blair snarling as if feral. Andrew and Julie are entirely confused by their meaning and given the limited knowledge base of the invaders, they are unable to discern what is meant. As the baby cries her head off, the Blairs grow irritated with them, not understanding how to comfort or quiet the child. Then Sam (Dave Mounfield) rings the doorbell delivering a package. To ensure that everyone understands the stakes, Mrs. Blair savagely decimates him, by partially devouring the postmaster. Now it is a race against the clock to get the Blairs what they are after before Toby returns home from school and the same fate befalls him.
“…investigating an odd military convoy that showed up on the far side of the moor where they live…”
Jamie Patterson, the director, crafts several suspenseful sequences with a strange, claustrophobic atmosphere to boot. The Blairs initial freakout against the reporters is creepy, with the sound design implementing animal noises to further make everything seem out of the ordinary. A sequence in which Andrew must quickly develop and enlarge a photograph that may hold the key to saving his family is thrilling. The way music, lighting, and tension all come together is beautiful, unnerving, even riveting, in its direction. Patterson mounts a creepy, beautiful looking movie, too bad he is saddled with this script.
Written by Dave Allsop and Alex Francis the idea isn’t bad, crafting a home invasion thriller with supernatural, Biblical undertones. It is just that as soon as the Blairs show up Caught falls apart. They are so clearly disturbed, odd, creepy, whatever word you prefer, that no person in their right mind would have invited them into their home. Given that Andrew and Julie know of unscrupulous events taking place near them, it is even more baffling that they would let the Blairs enter. But, despite the massive plothole, this creates (the leads are morons and therefore unfit parents), without it, there would be no movie. It is upon the audience to meet the movie halfway, so it is still dumb, but can be overlooked.
What cannot be overlooked is the animalistic qualities of Mrs. Blair. She growls and eats people like a panther and given the few tidbits gleaned about both her and Mr. Blair, they are not strictly human. The way they don’t understand the simplest of objects or emotions is a huge plot point, especially with Mr. Blair as he seems to long for the idyllic life Andrew and Julie have. Those few sentences, along with the fact that they are part of collective in which they both are and aren’t Cain, are all the audience will ever find out about them. That photograph, the one that might save the central family’s lives, is never shown to the audience. Their reaction to it is visceral disgust, but the viewer is in the dark.
“What cannot be overlooked is the animalistic qualities of Mrs. Blair…”
The movie doesn’t need to tell us that the Blairs are descended from aliens that created life on Earth millions of years ago as a farm for food (thus explaining the need to eat flesh). It doesn’t need to explain the curse of Cain was given by God after murdering his brother Abel, and that Cain’s family members are cursed to live forever and consume blood (this is also an alleged source for the legend of vampires). It does not need to explain that the military shenanigans being investigated are DNA manipulation experiments and that these two are escaped patients. The simplicity in not knowing a lot about the creepy killers is part of the thrill but failure to provide any answers, even one as simple as crazed people who grew up feral in the swamps a la a British-set Tarzan horror story, is needed.
Otherwise, the mystery that the whole movie is about, the “caught” that the title comes from is pointless. Which is another way of stating that the film is wasting the audience’s time. Failing to answer, however remotely, why these people forcefully entered a couple’s home to get a photograph makes all of Caught inconsequential. How did they know these two took that photo? Why not just break in and kill the family right away when they have no qualms about murder? Why does Mr. Blair seem empathize with the family but fail to help them? Seriously, this plot strand goes nowhere.
Caught is amazingly well directed with taut, intense sequences. The acting serves the unnerving atmosphere perfectly, and the score is luminous. But the screenplay fails to provide reasons for anything that happens nor does it answer any of the mysteries it poses. As such, for all the good in the movie, Caught is a misfire.
Caught (2018) Directed by Jamie Patterson. Written by Dave Allsop, Alex Francis. Starring Cian Barry, Ruben Crow, Aaron Davis, Dave Mounfield, April Pearson, Mickey Summer.