Caged is a low-budget horror film that suffers at times from it’s financial restraints but is saved by a fantastic performance by lead actor, Edi Gathegi (X-Men: First Class)and it’s powerful message. The film focuses on Harlow (Edi Gathegi) who has been imprisoned for killing his wife. He claims he is innocent and is put in solitary confinement when a guard claims to have found a razor blade in his room, which she planted there. While in solitary, Harlow struggles to retain his sanity while experiencing visions and hallucinations. He continues to try and write an appeal to the judge and refuses to sign a confession that would free him from solitary confinement.
At its core, Caged has a unique message: solitary confinement is inhumane. We witness Harlow literally lose his mind throughout the film after spending time in solitary. The film also touches on an important and relevant issue of false confession. It shows that once someone spends a certain amount of time in solitary, they will do anything to get out, even sign a false confession. Prison and justice reform are extremely relevant at the moment and I want to give the filmmakers a lot of credit for making a film that advocates for change and that has something impactful to say.
Unfortunately, there are times the film feels rather amateur and comes off like a college senior thesis. Some of the performances are disappointing and in moments, even the sound design felt unprofessional. As much as I appreciated what the film was trying to say, the low budget nature of the film really comes through. There were some cool horror effects, with power outages, red lighting and creepy hallucinations, but in some scenes it comes off like a cheaply made advertisement for a haunt during Halloween.
Edi Gathegi really carried this movie. His performance always felt genuine and he always seemed to be a step above the other actors, He did a wonderful job at portraying a man going insane and seemed like he knew exactly what the part required of him. Helena Hardin also does a good job as the female corrections officer, Officer Sacks. It was refreshing to see a female play a corrupted cop instead of a typical white male. Her performance was truly frightening and forced the audience to have a strong dislike of her character. The film spends most of the time with Harlow in prison but flashes back occasionally to the events that got him there. The audience is inclined to believe Harlow’s innocence at first but his flashbacks make him look more and more guilty as Harlow loses his sanity. The whole film has a dream-like atmosphere. As the film is shown from Harlow’s perspective, this aspect helped depict Harlow’s declining mental state as the movie went on. After a while, as an audience, we begin to question what is real and what isn’t. In turn this showed that Harlow, himself, doesn’t even know what is real, which makes for a very interesting narrative.
Overall Caged has a unique message and story but ultimately feels amateur and mediocre due to budget restraints and production quality. This probably would have worked better as a longer short film rather than a feature. I was a bit bored at times but the last third of the film did grip me and had me questioning Harlow’s innocence. If you’re desperate for a new horror film with something to say, Caged might not be a bad choice. However, it’s mediocre production quality will most likely not appeal to a wide audience.
Verdict: 2 out of 5 Stars