“Charlie! Tell me that’s not a camera.”
If you type “Airbnb Hidden Cameras,” into your search engine, you’ll find a plethora of headlines that say, “How to Check If Your Airbnb Has Cameras,” or “A Family Vacationing Finds Hidden Camera in Airbnb.” Sure, the occurrences may be few and far between, but I would personally just take my chances in a hotel. The Rental preys on those voyeuristic fears and tells the story of two young couples who rent a home along the Oregon coast. The views are breathtaking and the home is beautiful — a perfect mix for a cozy weekend getaway. But when the four friends find a hidden camera, the relaxing weekend soon becomes a nightmare.
A well-done horror film, The Rental marks Dave Franco’s first time behind the camera, and boy does he exhibit some great talents in the director’s chair. The film is brilliantly shot, with outstanding cinematography from Christian Sprenger — highlighting the frightening eeriness that surrounds our main characters. Franco, who wrote the script along with Joe Swanberg, does an excellent job at slowly building suspense as the fear in each of the characters begins to boil over. It’s a story we’ve seen before, a little predictable at times, but it still has tons of shock value. The cast of The Rental is the definite highlight of the film — with most of the praise going to Alison Brie. Brie, who has spent most of her time in comedy with projects such as Community and Glow, has the best performance of her career as she plays Michelle, the wife of Charlie (Dan Stevens), whose marriage seems to be fraying. Stevens is no stranger to creepy films as he repeatedly tries to separate himself from the good ol’ boy, Matthew Crawley, in Downton Abbey. Stevens has separated himself even further as his character Charlie is a complete jerk, if I may be so bold. Charlie, whose inability to stay faithful in his past monogamous relationships, begins to do the same in his marriage. Mina (Sheila Vand), who’s now Charlie’s new eye candy, is oddly enough in a relationship with Charlie’s loser of a brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White).
Michelle and Josh begin to notice something between Charlie and Mina as the affair begins to rise to the surface. This storyline alone could take on a Fatal Attraction type of storyline, but not here. Charlie and Mina’s mistake of hooking up in the home, only serves as a barrier between their secret, and reporting the hidden cameras to the authorities.
There are layers to the film — a series of twists and turns to only solidify your uneasiness as you watch the chaos unfold. There’s a Get Out type of vibe in the beginning, illustrating moments of racial prejudices as Mina, who is Middle-Eastern with the last name Mohammadi, is denied her booking for the house when only an hour later Charlie’s booking is approved. However, this part of the story, and many other plot devices, only serve as a diversion from the real horrors at play: voyeurism. Though The Rental is nothing short of gripping, the ending is a bit open and shut. With a runtime of an hour and 28 minutes, the conclusion is a bit of a surprise, because no sooner as it begins, it’s over.
But don’t let the ending dissuade you from seeing The Rental. Once it was over, I wanted to watch it again, which you’ll probably want to do in order to catch all the tell-tale signs throughout the film. There are moments that will have you jumping in your seat, and times where you may literally want turn away from the violent acts that take place onscreen. But like the horror films of the past that made you fear even the most menial tasks in your life, The Rental will make you think twice before you book your next vacation.
Directed by: Dave Franco
Starring: Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White