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The Rental review – predictable cabin-in-the-woods scares

Peter Bradshaw
·2-min read

Initial high hopes are dashed at the third-act stage of this disappointing cabin-in-the-woods horror-mystery in which actor Dave Franco (brother of James) makes his directorial debut, co-writing with mumblecore film-maker Joe Swanberg.

Two couples rent an ocean-front beach house for a luxury weekend getaway: tech entrepreneur Charlie (Dan Stevens) and his partner Michelle (Alison Brie), with Charlie’s brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White), and Josh’s partner, Mina (Sheila Vand), who is also the co-owner of Charlie’s tech startup. When the foursome arrives, they are instantly nettled by the guy showing them around the property: Taylor (Toby Huss) makes casually racist comments about Mina. And it turns out their ultra-fancy rental has some very strange things about it. Are they being spied on?

The dynamic between the four characters is interesting at first, in part because there is already some difficult sexual and social tension between them; it isn’t just the weirdo place they find themselves in. But when the gory/scary stuff really starts happening, the film suddenly loses its dramatic charge. The focus is muddled and uncertain. When tough guy Josh (who we learn has already done jail time for violence) starts taking action against someone who might not actually have done anything wrong, the film starts becoming more of a suspense thriller in which our four hapless heroes have to cover up their own misdeeds. It almost seems as if they themselves are the bad guys, which undermines the potency and the dramatic point of the threat that emerges from the darkness.

It’s pretty basic boilerplate, scary-movie stuff, with tropes and tricks that have already been extensively satirised elsewhere.

• The Rental is available on Amazon Prime Video from 22 January.