Dave Franco’s indie slasher is half solid

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Alison Brie in The Rental

Alison Brie in The Rental
Photo: Films IFC

Some of the best horror movies are like house invasions, with horror as the invader and another genre playing the house. Thinking of watching the sweet story of a lonely widower holding mock auditions to find a new wife? Think again, because the needles and the piano wire come out. Horror is definitely an interruption of Location, the first feature film written and directed by Dave Franco. (Yes, this Dave Franco.) While there are a few tell-tale signs of something threatening – a menacing locked door, a few voyeuristic POV shots of the Jason Voorhees variety – much of the first half of the film unfolds like direct drama. , establishing simmering conflicts between two couples on weekends. This setup is so believable, in fact, that it’s doubly disappointing when the elements of the thriller finally materialize and quickly fail to quiver; it’s like someone ripped off the remote and changed the channel to a half ass slasher with the same characters.

And Jaws scares the public from going to the beach, Location seems designed to ruin another source of summer fun: group vacations. The eponymous property is a spacious home with ocean views. It’s the perfect place for a few days of partying, agree partners Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Mina (A girl comes home alone at night‘s Sheila Vand), eyeing the list, wondering to pay the hefty price for the reservation. It’s worth clarifying that Charlie and Mina are professional partners, not romantic ones – they run a startup, though the film playfully loses interest in the details of their business. Franco is counting on us to confuse the two for lovers; their chemistry is the first problem with many bubbles below the film surface. Mina is actually dating Charlie’s brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White), a sweet but angry ex-frat boy whose career as a Lyft driver has earned her a lot of condescension from her older and more successful brother. Charlie, meanwhile, is married to Michelle (Alison Brie, Franco’s own wife), who doesn’t feel threatened by her husband’s close relationship with his coworker, although maybe she should be.

Franco co-wrote Location with mumblecore pioneer Joe Swanberg, and for a while it works well as a relationship study in the latter’s vein Drinking buddies, with an emphasis on bothersome attraction in thirties. In addition to the intimacy charged with group dynamics, the film stacks up racial and class tensions. When the four reach the house, there is a thorny exchange between the owner’s brother (character actor Toby Huss) and Mina, whose application was turned down, possibly because of her Middle Eastern surname. She is guilty of her own assumptions: ” your do you own this place? she asks incredulously, the male accent and working class vibe not matching her mental image of someone with money. Franco also gets conscious laughs at how vacation priorities can get out of sync; a sin Midsummer, several scenes are devoted to the controversial question of when to take drugs. (Within a solid cast, Brie does the best through the transition from mundane irritations like having to get high on her own to life-changing danger.)

Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White in The Rental

Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White in The Rental
Photo: Films IFC

It’s mostly a prelude, however. Finally, Location delves into the worst-case scenario of predatory surveillance, which intersects with the secrets destructively kept among the characters. But after all the care taken in developing these relationships, the scares almost feel like an afterthought, as if the movie remembers at the last minute what genre it was supposed to be and hastily improvised a violent climax. As a filmmaker, Franco fortunately has none of the pompous overtaking of his older brother; Location lasts 88 lively and unpretentious minutes, and is cleanly and elegantly done. But there is an indifference to what passes for his set pieces: beyond an effectively jarring shot from someone running at top speed on a wrecked car, the horror is staged as superficially as it is. ‘she was introduced. Oddly enough, the material of life or death turns out to be much less suspenseful than the possibility of infidelity that hangs over the social mishap of the first half.

To be fair, Location would likely be a bit scarier any other summer, when more viewers could plan their own trips – although seeing friends in close contact, touching the surfaces of another person’s house inspires accidental bites of anxiety, the same way that currently crowded beaches looks scary even without a shark prowling their waters. Much more than the year other Airbnb Horror Movie The Cooler Wan Kevin Bacon You should have left, Location at least attempts to exploit the disturbing implications of our new travel standard – to evoke discomfort among tenants no doubt should feel they are in a house that is not theirs. What can a few stars really tell you about the people who open their doors? And isn’t there something a little bewildering about their freedom to come and go as they please, their access to you just by turning a key? Franco grazes on those fears, but his film still feels like an exquisite corpse of genre error, which does not develop any meaningful relationship between the story it seems to tell and the harsh but rather arbitrary way it is resolved. In other words, don’t trust the list: this is a half-horror movie at best, and it’s not its better half.

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