‘The Rental’ (2020) Review

"The Rental" is a terrifying, slow-burn look into the dangers of renting vacation properties

Staying in an Airbnb has become the new norm in recent years. I always look there first when going on vacation; it seems much more personal than a traditional hotel room, and sometimes, a much better value.

Also, I own my own Airbnb. Sharing my 175-year-old historical house with others has been a wonderful experience and allowed us to make new friends from all over the world. Have I had guests that made me wonder if I should get out of the home-sharing business? Luckily no, but guests that are messier than necessary or arrive at midnight due to traffic, happen from time to time. Now the new film The Rental has come about, making me seriously rethink letting strangers into my home.

Synopsis: A group of friends at an oceanside getaway grow suspicious that the host of their seemingly perfect rental house may be spying on them. Before long, what should have been a celebratory weekend trip turns into something far more sinister, as well-kept secrets are exposed and the four old friends come to see each other in a whole new light.

Two couples decide to take a weekend trip to an idyllic beach house. When Mina (Sheila Vand from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) who happens to be Middle Eastern, tries to book the place, she is denied. Thinking it’s just a glitch, her white co-worker Charlie (Dan Stevens) goes ahead and books it successfully, without even thinking about the possible racism that just occurred. Things are going great at work and they just want to celebrate. With his wife Michelle, (Alison Brie) Mina’s boyfriend, who happens to be his brother, Josh, (Shameless favorite Jeremy Allen White) and Josh’s dog, Reggie, in tow, they head off to the coast.

The house turns out to be fantastic and they are excited to get the party started. The owner’s brother Taylor, (Toby Huss) is the landlord and does seem to have some prejudice against Mina. She asks him why she was not allowed to rent the house, yet Charlie was, and they have an awkward confrontation right off the bat. It isn’t surprising that they all start to feel a bit uncomfortable, simply because he is a bit of a misogynistic asshole. And since it said no dogs on the listing, they gotta sneak little Reggie in after Taylor leaves. The group is no longer relaxed, and they just arrived.

The biggest problem I saw right off, was major tension of the sexual kind, brewing in this foursome. Mina is smart and beautiful, and even though he is married, Charlie is attracted to her. Josh is feeling inadequate around Charlie because his big brother has always been the successful sibling. And Charlie’s wife Michelle just wants to hike, party and have a fun weekend. Nothing could go wrong in the hot tub, could it?

It doesn’t take long before the dream getaway turns toxic, then deadly. The plot seems simple, but there is more going on than just a familiar home invasion plot.

I don’t want to give away the story, you need to stay as off-balanced as I was. Things turn out immensely different than meets the eye. But know there are drugs, sex, hot tub antics, lies, cameras in the shower, and someone secretly taping them. Wait a minute, there’s more! There are dead bodies, a missing dog, betrayals, red herrings, and lots more drama. To top it off, throw in a masked killer and the whole weekend unravels into a melodramatic, and creepy-as-hell thriller.

I was disappointed to see that despite her mentioning it quite a few times, no one really listened to Mina when she said she was uncomfortable about the macho and racist Taylor. Her biggest problem though was Charlie, and bad choices were made all around. Do people really mess around on their spouses in the room next to where they are sleeping?

As a horror fan who always feels that less is more, I was really pleased that we never see the stalker’s face, which, despite the utterly bleak finale, helped make the film work. Did anyone survive? Who is the person in the mask? What happened to the dog?

The cinematography was beautiful, with dark shadows and fog adding to the sinister creepiness. The SFX were flawless, and the performances were strong by everyone. All the actors did the most with the characters that they could. I wasn’t a big fan of any of them, (Well Josh was pretty sweet) so thinking they might all die, didn’t bother me. But as a horror geek, I wanted them to be awesome deaths. There were quite a few dumb decisions made in true horror trope fashion. But that’s alright, it’s ok if they die, just leave the cute doggie alone!

The scariest part is that we see at the end what the villain is up to, and how they accomplish being a successful Peeping Tom. I really wanted to go out immediately and change my locks. I still feel very creeped out by it.

Director Dave Franco’s The Rental is a cautionary tale about sharing someone else’s space and the idea of “who can we trust?”

Though staying in a rental house or cabin is not new to me or to horror movies, this tense, chilling, and eye-opening film will forever scar me. I love staying in Airbnbs, but from now on I will be on the lookout for cameras in everything. I am sure after Psycho came out, that motel business was affected, and I admit I look for peepholes in walls everywhere I go. Remember Jaws? People will forever be scanning the horizon for a giant fin when at the beach. It doesn’t take much for a horror film to ruin a location for us forever, does it?

IFC Films will release The Rental in select drive-ins, theaters, and VOD Friday, July 24, 2020

For more info or tickets click here TheRental.movie website

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