The Rental

Anyone bothering to follow box-office receipts this summer has found that COVID-19 has allowed a lot of horror movies to briefly claim the #1 slot from the drive-in circuit. The Rental should be the first of these to deservedly cash in quick. That’s against all odds, too. First-time director Dave Franco isn’t the first hipster to dream of mixing indie drama and traditional suspense. He also teamed up with a real master of mildness by bringing in mumblecore veteran Joe Swanberg to co-write this tale of two couples trying to have a celebratory weekend in a creepy cliffside home where they’re not alone. But make it to the 50-minute mark, and The Rental suddenly lurches into becoming a very different kind of slasher movie. By then, the soundtrack – having spent most of The Rental trying to convince us we’re watching something scary – is reduced to becoming a horror horn that drags down this elevated thriller. Fortunately, that’s easy to forgive as the seemingly simple plot builds to an impressive finish. That includes some final moments which do a disturbingly great job of wrapping up what could have still stalled as a frustratingly promising sleeper. Bonus points for what might very well be a Vic Tayback tribute.