A solid chiller from first-time director Dave Franco. Be careful what you rent you smug Airbnbers. Listen to John/Wayne enjoy their vacation home on this Friday's It's Movie Time.
Director: Dave Franco
Screenplay: Franco, Joe Swanberg (Happy Christmas)
Cast: Alison Brie (Horse Girl), Dan Stevens (The Call of the Wild)
Runtime: 1h 28m
By: John DeSando
Writer/director Dave Franco’s first directorial debut, The Rental, has enough of the horror, thriller tropes to make the genre’s devotees happy. For the rest of us who merely want a straightforward depiction about what can go wrong with two couples vacationing together on the Oregon coast, satisfaction is within reach.
Relative depth of characterization and expert acting supported by reasonable suspense reveal what we really know and how we react to the unknown. Case in point: Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michele (Alison Brie) are experiencing Charlie’s business success, and his brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White) and his wife, Charlie’s new partner, Mina (Sheila Vand), join them in a typically stylish coastal rental to celebrate.
Franco smartly distributes his exposition before disclosing the identity of the genre-requisite stalker. More so does he slowly expose the real stalker—the attraction of Charlie and Mina, which leads to indiscretion that leads to mayhem between the couples. What Franco is careful to preserve is the realism of dissembling characters and the effects of their ill-considered actions.
While a surveillance motif is prominent—cameras all over the house most notably in the shower (several Hitchcock similarities)—it is within the consciences of the miscreants that the disclosure of their secrets weighs most heavily. The utterly human urge to sin and hide the disclosure is more potent than the suspicion that the property manager, Taylor (Toby Huss), is a wacko stalker.
The first hour and 10 minutes or so are expertly low-key, building to naughtiness and death with an unusually small set of jump scares and red herrings. Franco remains true to the operative motif that mining information and letting it go is the most lethal act of all.
The Rental outstrips star Kevin Bacon’s recent You Should Have Left if for nothing else because it’s the fraught relationships that menace, not the stalkers. Bacon was mostly interior—The Rental is people.
Yes, The Rental will make you pause before you take on Airbnb.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com