[Screen It]


(2020) (Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand) (R)

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Suspense/Horror: Two couples rent a seaside house together, only to have their idyllic getaway turn into a nightmare.

With Charlie (DAN STEVENS) and his business partner Mina (SHEILA VAND) hitting a major milestone with their company, they've decided a weekend getaway to a seaside rental house is in order for them and their significant others. For Charlie, that's his wife, Michelle (ALISON BRIE), while Mina's boyfriend just so happens to be Charlie's brother, Josh (JEREMY ALLEN WHITE).

When they arrive, they're blown away by the views, but get creepy and racist vibes from the caretaker of the place, Taylor (TOBY HUSS). Once he leaves, however, they unwind and relax, leading to an unexpected rendezvous. That and the discovery of spy cameras inside the house turn what should have been an idyllic getaway into a nightmare for the four.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

The beauty of cinematic offerings in the thriller and/or horror genres is that -- beyond usually not costing much to make -- they don't need any sort of complex setup or convoluted storyline to work. In fact, I'd argue that most of them -- and especially the better ones -- can be watched with the audio muted and you'll still be able to follow what occurs.

Having to take content notes regarding language and such, I obviously don't do that with any first viewings, but I imagine the above would certainly apply to actor Dave Franco's first time in the director's seat, "The Rental," which he co-wrote with Joe Swanberg.

It's the super-streamlined tale of two brothers -- Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White) -- who arrive at a beautiful, seaside rental home for a long weekend with their significant others, that being Charlie's wife, Michelle (Alison Brie), and Josh's girlfriend, Mina (Sheila Vand ). She and Charlie work together in some sort of small startup that's taking off and they want to celebrate with the loves of their lives, including with the added boost of a little ecstasy.

That will certainly help take the edge off a rocky start to their R&R, what with Josh deciding to bring his dog along for the trip despite it being against the rules and Mina bristling at the property manager, Taylor (Toby Huss), showing his racist traits by first turning down her rental request due to her Arab last name and then asking in person how she got involved with the other three.

Michelle doesn't partake that night due to being tired and Josh ends up passing out from too much drinking. All of which leaves Charlie and Mina together in a hot tub and before you can say "Hot Tub Time Machine" they're wishing they could use such a contraption to erase a literal and figurative heat of the moment development.

That's exacerbated when they discover that their significant misstep might have been seen or, worse yet, recorded, most likely they believe by Taylor. And things then unravel and go downhill from there.

While I would have preferred something different than the usual bogeyman material that wraps up the third act, until then Franco has a sure hand in setting up the situation and allowing the tension to keep ratcheting up one level after another until you're fully engaged in the characters' plight. The performances from all involved work well for what's asked of the actors, while cinematographer Christian Sprenger's camerawork and composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans' score nicely add to the "Uh-oh, what's going to happen now?" aura.

Making me look forward to what Franco might do next, "The Rental" is certainly worthy of your rental dollars, sound on or not. It rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed July 21, 2020 / Posted July 24, 2020

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