An Airbnb Nightmare
By Sadira Sittampalam
The Rental is a 2020 film, directed by actor-turned-director Dave Franco, which follows two couples as they rent a vacation home for what should be a celebratory weekend getaway. However, the trip soon turns into something more sinister as secrets are exposed and the four friends all come to see each other in a different light. While this film has some pretty great ideas and concepts, it was a little mishandled at the hands of an ambitious but inexperienced director.
The set up to this movie is honestly pretty intriguing. Straight off the bat, there was a lot of information about the characters, the situation, and the context. All of these elements were also subtly developed through the introduction and made it a really easy movie to start watching as it captivates you really quickly. However, while all of these things did make it seem like it was all building up to some big reveal, the actual way the story turned out was pretty predictable.
Throughout the movie, you always felt like something scary could happen. The atmosphere was tense and the cinematography and production really put together scenes that felt entirely creepy. The sound design was also pretty good and brought that extra ounce of tension so that every scene kept you on your toes. The only problem was that nothing really did end up happening and this tension was drawn out throughout the movie until its ending, which left a lot to be desired.
All the way up to the ending there was just so much suspense, but finally, when we thought we were about to get the pay-off we’d been waiting for, it turned out to be something else entirely which was also done in a way that made it not at all scary. This was also the fault of how the action scenes were done, as they were barely shown on screen, which meant that any impact these scenes could have had was squandered. I believe this was done in order to emphasise that the ending was going for something existential, aiming to leave us with something to discuss, and while I could see it being intriguing, the way it was delivered was unsatisfying, as it all just felt too easy. The soundtrack was also occasionally a giveaway, particularly when we got to the ending.
In terms of horror by itself, it was very suspenseful. Even with all of the faults of the plot, it did succeed in making me scared through various aspects of its atmosphere and tone, but this also got more and more uneven as the film went on. The idea of the movie was the scariest portion of it; the idea that any of this could happen to us and the idea that it could have already happened to us in a way - all making you slightly warier of where you choose to stay the night while on vacation.
Moreover, while this kind of leaned towards being a relationship drama, there isn’t much that happens in the movie, which only made it harder to properly get to know the characters. You didn’t feel very emotionally invested in them and it made getting into the movie fully a bit harder as so much relies on whether you identify with a character or not. However, you did feel like these were real characters, as all the acting was done in a very naturalistic way.
You could see there was more lying under the surface, but it was cut off by the limits of the plot. Nevertheless, from what we did get, the performances were essentially what were guiding the movie through. It never got boring as the actors always held up the screen and made it so much easier to watch even through all of its faults, as they made it seem real. This is likely also due to Franco’s prior experience as an actor, which makes him more than able to pull out great performances from these great actors. Dan Stevens is also always amazing to watch, particularly when he plays dirtbags.
With everything that was done in this movie, I could see what Franco was trying to go for, which is generally not a good sign. It was just proof that everything wasn’t very subtle. This was most evident in how he tried to switch through various genres, however, he never committed fully to any of them, while also not having a guiding undertone, which just made it seem uneven and unfocused.
While this isn’t your standard horror film, and while Franco seemed to have tried his best to make a movie that was original and unique, what we got was a mish-mash of ideas that was badly brought together. There was just so much that could have been done with all these moving parts if it had been done by someone with a little more expertise in the genre. Overall, this film is an ambitious effort, and while it never fully came to fruition, I respect Franco and his craft and do see a future for him as a director. Nevertheless, when it comes to this film, I could see myself watching it with a group of friends but I wouldn’t really recommend it as serious watching. All I know is that I’m never taking a shower in an Airbnb again.