(US - 2020)
Directed by Dave Franco. Written by Dave Franco and Joe Swanberg. Cast: Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Jeremy Allen White, Toby Huss, Anthony Molinari. (R, 88 mins)
"This'll be over soon, I promise."
"This will never be over."
A confident and very well-crafted directing debut from apparent master of horror Dave Franco, THE RENTAL aims to establish itself as the quintessential Airbnb-from-Hell thriller and the end result is a merciless screw-tightener where the tensions are already very quietly simmering from the start. Co-written by Franco and mumblecore vet Joe Swanberg, THE RENTAL is one of these films that pulls a 180 at the midpoint and becomes something completely different. A set-up like this will inevitably prove divisive, with some preferring the character-based drama of the first half while others will wish the whole thing was a home-invasion horror movie like the second half, but things are so off with these characters from the get-go that their weekend vacay was doomed one way or another. Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Mina (A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT's Sheila Vand) are business partners at some unspecified trendy, Casual Friday-all-week-long startup. They have such an affectionate, touchy-feely camaraderie that it's a jarring surprise--barely a minute into the film--when her boyfriend Josh (SHAMELESS' Jeremy Allen White) pops into the office unannounced. Josh is also Charlie's younger brother, but he and Charlie's wife Michelle (Alison Brie, Franco's wife) are used to the harmlessly playful interaction between their significant others. To celebrate the closing of a lucrative deal, Charlie and Mina rent a huge oceanfront house on a cliff for weekend couples getaway.