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George At 

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The Rental

An occasionally interesting take on the old “two couples rent a too-good-to-be-true beach house” story, THE RENTAL offers some humor, a few surprises but no real scares.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast) carries the film on his back as Charlie, a successful tech entrepreneur who has just landed the biggest deal of his career. He and his wife Michelle (Alison Brie) invite his brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White) to come along. He just happens to be dating Charlie’s business partner Mina (Sheila Vand from “Snowpiercer”).

The screenplay by Director Dave Franco and Joe Swanberg seems determined to cram in every social warrior concern of 2020, managing to leverage everything from racism, capitalism, adultery, drug use and sexism into a pretty simple horror story.

How much you’ll enjoy all those components depends on how “woke” you are I suppose. I think I laughed a lot, rolled my eyes but I was never triggered, thank heavens. LOL

Beneath all those elements, it’s basically a pretty well shot mashup of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, “Friday the 13th” and a dash of “Rear Window”.

The brother dynamics are fairly interesting, with Charlie the successful, hard-working one and Josh the hair-trigger tempered, unmotivated sibling. Other than Charlie though, no one is really allowed to be very likable.

The best moments are when our couples are exploring that mysterious locked room under the house, walking back to the home with a large shadowy figure just behind them or the creeping moments when you realize that a very big secret is about to be exposed.

The good parts don’t add up to anything more than an average film, but I’ll give first-time director Dave Franco (The Disaster Artist, Neighbors) some nice style points with his camera moves and the performances he gets from his ensemble.

If we ever rent a beachside home, I hope Toby Huss (Veep, Carnivale) isn’t the guy handing me the keys. I think I’d get back in my car and leave.

THE RENTAL is an okay diversion begging for more answers in its ending and more scares in its storytelling. I’ll give it a fog shrouded C-.

If you want to see a GREAT movie about couples, mystery and murder, go rent 1984’s Coen Brothers debut “Blood Simple”. That’s one HELL of a movie on the same themes.

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