Films don’t need to be huge and flashy to be effective, and The Rental (2020) is a slick little case in point, a classy indie chiller that ramps simmering Hitchcockian tension into jarring 1980s horror shock tactics. A weekend getaway to a luxury rental house on the Oregon coast starts off innocently enough: happily married Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michelle (Alison Brie) are accompanied by Charlie’s attractive work partner Mina (Sheila Vand) and his brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White), who are now dating. Their arrival gets off to a bumpy start when they’re greeted by a potentially racist caretaker (Toby Huss), but more troubling is the subdued attraction between Charlie and Mina, who haven’t acknowledged their mutual interest – which is about to expose the cracks in their respective relationships, and turn a fraught vacation into a deadly one.
Directed and co-written by Dave Franco, The Rental makes its modest scale an asset. It’s a classic bottle show with a limited but perfectly deployed cast, relying on its isolated location and subtle character detail to ramp the suspense. The script is streamlined, delivering the proceedings efficiently from quiet slow-build to explosive climax. It certainly isn’t breaking any new narrative ground, but adroit execution slots it nicely into a storied horror-thriller tradition, and its truly chilling outro lets the unsettling impact linger.