Fair warning for those who choose to watch “The Rental”: after you see it, you will never, ever want to rent an Airbnb ever again. You may never want to rent a private home from anyone ever again. This frightening psychological thriller marks an impressive directorial debut from Dave Franco (who also co-wrote the script with indie darling Joe Swanberg). It’s an effective genre piece that’s tension-filled, if slow-moving.
The best horror starts with a simple (and believable) premise. Charlie (Dan Stevens) is planning a celebratory weekend getaway with his wife Michelle (Alison Brie), brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White), and Josh’s girlfriend Mina (Sheila Vand), and books an impressive oceanside home from a private rental site. It’s perfect in every way, until they meet the proprietor (Toby Huss). He gives off a definite creep vibe, and even makes thinly-veiled racist comments directed at Mina. As the two couples hang out, get drunk, do drugs, and relax in the hot tub, their suspicions grow that their host may be spying on them.
To reveal much more of the plot would give some of the best twists of the film away, but this is a simple (and scary) idea that’s skillfully told. Good thrillers cause you to rethink everyday normalcies as potential dangers, and the plausibility of the situation is effective.
The cast is good enough, but there’s no Earth-shattering work here (Brie is miscast as usual). The performances don’t really matter much to the final project because Franco does a great job building a slow burning tension. This isn’t exactly edge-of-your-seat stuff, but it’s disturbing.
The ending is a little lazy and there isn’t anything new or particularly inventive about “The Rental,” but it’s a solid indie thriller. Oh, and make sure you watch the nightmare-inducing credits because they’re the most terrifying thing of all.