Synopsis: Two couples stay at a weekend rental where a stranger is watching.
“Nothing like a getaway with friends at a luxury rental to recharge! Visitors will be especially energized by the spectacular ocean views and the need to run for their lives. Enjoy feeling paranoid? Guests have plenty of rooms to creep through, looking for intruders. And there are any number of high quality knives to arm yourself with from the chef-designed kitchen.”
The two couples in the movie seem to have clicked on an ad like the above for their weekend getaway. Rumors of a malevolent intruder lurking just around the corner are no good, but THE VIEW! Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame is Charlie, some sort of tech entrepreneur whose business partner Mina (Sheila Vand) is dating Charlie’s brother Josh. Charlie’s girlfriend is Michelle (Alison Brie) who seems pretty normcore. They could all use a break, except for perhaps Josh, who is marginally employed. Before they even leave for the weekend, Charlie wonders aloud why Mina who is “the whole package” would want to date his brother, who has also been to prison. Even worse, he belonged to a fraternity in college.
The Rental is the first feature helmed by Dave Franco, younger brother of James Franco, actor-director-producer-screenwriter-painter-multimedia exhibitor-film course instructor. And Oscar host. Well, sort of. Now Dave can add a couple of hyphens to his name as director and co-screenwriter of this entry into the thriller-horror realm. Sadly, Lil Franco hasn’t cast himself in the film, but, happily, he has cast wife Alison Brie as the steady and sensible girlfriend of Dan Stevens’ character. Both Alison and Dan are capable and appealing in their roles, but viewers will not be able to stand Josh who comes off as a witless hothead. (For clarity, I’m just going to refer to the well-known actors by their names. So Dan Stevens is with Alison Brie, while Mina is the loser Josh’s girlfriend.) When Josh moans to Alison Brie that he doesn’t know why Mina is with him, we’re like: Right. Meanwhile, Dan Stevens raves to Mina about how she is so beautiful and terrific. But then she does about a million sh**ty things in a row.
So, the two couples take one car to the coastal Oregon rental and bring along Reggie, Josh’s v likable little French Bulldog. Now, I know that Dave Franco is a cat lady-man from his many Insta pix of his kitties. This made me worry a bit for the doggo’s safety because some cat people start to mirror the feline mindset about dogs: Dogs are jerks. I swear, Lil Franco, I will lose my s**t if you allow the plump and stately Reggie to be harmed in your script! Anyway…
After finally arriving to the site, they are totally wowed by the luxury vacation home with its stunning cliffside setting overlooking the wild Pacific. But the first red flag appears early, in the form of the property caretaker who has come in from town to show them around. He’s an obnoxious creep whom Mina already hates because she tried to book the property before Dan Stevens and was told it was unavailable. She’s convinced that he rejected her inquiry because she is Persian. Josh agrees that the guy is a racist PoS. The PoS better be careful because earlier, Dan Stevens was reminiscing to Alison Brie with a chuckle about how Josh beat the daylights out of someone in front of his frat house once. O, Josh! You character!
We know the characters will face some danger because scary, foreboding music was playing on the soundtrack as they approached their destination, so maybe the caretaker is a murderer! Also–second red flag– Josh and Mina find a door with a lock and conclude that the caretaker creep must have creepy stuff n there. Well, I guess, but maybe it’s just the owners’ ski equipment or something? But I was a little worried too, because the vibe was kinda spooky. But soon they let their guard down…
The first half of the movie could be called The Rental: Secrets and Lies. After some dinnertime wine and banter, they decide to indulge in some Molly and bad dancing. Meanwhile, no one is watching the doggo who scampers off the porch. No, they are too busy alluding to past naughty misdeeds and oohing and aahing over the hot tub like it’s a surf simulator.
Like I said, Josh is an ass and he’s quick to “innocently” drop some info about Dan Stevens’ past girlfriends to Alison Brie. Two of the characters make eyes at each other and sneak around for private time. They all argue about when to take drugs and when to go hiking. And as beautiful as the house is, they begin to suspect they are being surveilled in the rooms. So the vibe goes from chill to freak-out by Saturday night. Why don’t they just leave early you might ask. Well, their lives may be at risk, but they have already paid for the whole weekend!
The second half of the movie could be called The Rental: Slasher! Things start to go from bad to badder, so they all start dashing in different directions looking for a possible killer and trying to throw together their bags. Fortunately, doggo is staying away from the frenzied people and any psycho/s.
Franco the Younger’s movie did scare me and cure me of my lust for high class rentals. Temporarily anyway. Honestly, the first half of the movie where tea is spilt and their party goes from reckless fun to regrets was better than the second half which devolves into a gory mess. I wonder if Franco the older advised his bro in a frenemy fashion: Ha! Ha! Have your wife crash through the woods in the middle of the night! Tell Dan Stevens he’s giving off too much of a Downton Abbey vibe!
All & all Dave Franco has acquitted himself well with The Rental, but I have two after-the-fact notes… 1) Keep going with the Secretes & Lies direction 2) put yourself in the film as a roving stoner who needs a place to stay for the night. Start making eyes at Alison Brie. Or Dan Stevens.
P.S. Here is a sorta spoiler about the ending… stop reading if you don’t want to read my complaint, otherwise keep reading…… So, the ending is a letdown. Certainly for the characters and because the killer has no motive or backstory. Boo!
Movie Loon’s Movie Review Shortcut:
Cut to the Chase: Decent thriller at a great locale.
Humor Highlight: Alison Brie giddily insisting on using the hot tub.