The Rental

A solid and ominous thriller that doesn’t quite carry off its ending despite great performances and assured directing.

Written and directed by Dave Franco, The Rental concerns two brothers who bring the ladies in their respective lives to an opulent beach house for the weekend. The rented the house through an Airbnb style website. However something is off about the house. Things go missing. Things stop working, and finally when a hidden camera is discovered the madness takes over.

There are really two movies here. One is a slow boil descent for the two couples. The other is a violent horror movie. The first one works best. Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey or the Beast from the live action Beauty and the Beast) stars as Charlie a douschebag. He is a brilliant tech developer. His start up just got funded. His business partner is Mina played by Sheila Vand. They have a string connection and a solid working relationship, but that might not be all. Charlie is married to Michelle played by Alison Brie. She is not on the same level as Charlie and Mina. She doesn’t understand what they do or how it works, but she’s comfortable with their relationship… mostly. Charlie’s brother Josh, played by Jeremy Allen White is a screw up. He is the black sheep of the family, but he managed to attract Mina. They have a strong relationship, but Charlie knows she’s way out of his league. These four bring a simmering tension to every interaction.

The performances are all spot on. They have genuine lived in relationships. The issues they create for themselves feel real. They grow out of their characters rather than through plot contrivances. It’s wonderful to watch these characters tell their story at least until the movie decides to take over.

The second movie here is a violent horror movie. A home invasion type story in which the villain seems to be ten steps ahead of his prey as he lurks in the shadows. This is also a very effective movie. There are some genuinely terrifying moments. The violence is shot and edited in a very effective way. It’s a fantastic and unsettling horror movie.

These two individual movies are actually stitched together really well. There isn’t an awkward beat as we transition from one to the other. It’s only in retrospect that the disconnect becomes clear. All the dramas and story that pulled us in during the first section is negated by the second section. And the horror of the second is somewhat mitigated by the manner of setup in the first. In the moment the movie is excellent. In retrospect it’s a little disappointing that a tense drama gets interrupted and that a good horror movie isn’t set up very well.

If you’re looking for a solid new movie to watch at home there’s a lot worse currently streaming. This is s a well made and well crafted thriller that doesn’t quite pull off everything it’s going for. So it’s mostly my cup of tea B

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