By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — Those chafing under the travel restrictions imposed by the current pandemic may take comfort from “The Rental” (IFC), the story of an oceanside getaway gone fatally wrong.
Those in search of quality cinema, however, will find in actor Dave Franco’s directorial debut — which he also co-wrote with Joe Swanberg — a horror movie long on tension but short on logic or resolution.
Two brothers, prosperous Charlie (Dan Stevens) and ne’er-do-well Josh (Jeremy Allen White), the former traveling with his wife, Michelle (Alison Brie), the latter with his live-in girlfriend, Mina (Sheila Vand), who is also Charlie’s business partner, rent a luxurious house in the Pacific Northwest for a weekend. They’re celebrating a recent success for Charlie and Mina’s firm.
On arrival, though, the quartet find their vacation blighted by the presence of the property’s manager, Taylor (Toby Huss). He turns out to be both bigoted — showing disdain for Mina based on her Middle Eastern ethnicity — and creepy. So when unpleasant events start happening, the sojourners naturally suspect that Taylor is behind them.
A cautionary tale about the kind of holiday enabled by websites like Airbnb and about hi-tech surveillance, “The Rental” places its characters in initially hostile and ultimately horrifying circumstances. But none of the four is particularly sympathetic or memorable, blunting the story’s impact.
Though the plot does show how moral transgressions can entrap those who perpetrate them, its wrap-up is thoroughly unsatisfying. As a result, the picture as a whole ultimately fails to make much of an impression.
The film contains some gory violence, semi-graphic adulterous activity, drug use, brief partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, about a half-dozen milder oaths as well as pervasive rough and frequent crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.