(director/writer: Dave Franco; screenwriter: Joe Swanburg; cinematographer: Christian Sprenger; editor: Kyle Reiter; music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans; cast: Alison Brie (Michelle), Dan Stevens (Charlie), Jeremy Allen White (Josh), Sheila Vand (Mina), Toby Huss (Taylor), Anthony Molinari (Old Charlie); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Dave Franco, Elizabeth Haggard, Teddy Schwarzman, Ben Stillman, Joe Swanberg, Christopher Storer; IFC Films; 2020)
“It offers nothing new as far as thrillers, but it offers some well-earned chills.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Dave Franco’s directorial debut is one with a tense atmosphere, featuring a stalker slasher and other familiar genre scares. It blends together an unnerving mix of horror and dramedy, that’s set on the seacoast of Oregon, overlooked by a gorgeous cliffside. It involves two couples going on a holiday for the week-end, whose trip takes a wrong turn when it morphs into a suspenseful drama of adultery, lies, a missing pet bulldog (taken along to the rental despite a policy of “No pets allowed”), murder and a secret videotape. It features a solid script by indie “mumblecore” filmmaker Joe Swanburg and a good cast. It offers nothing new as far as thrillers, but it offers some well-earned chills.
The insufferable Charlie (Dan Stevens), a selfish charmer, is doing well as a partner in a start-up business as a techie. He’s married to the bright, attractive, adoring and conventional Michelle (Alison Brie). Charlie’s ex-con but sweet-heart of a brother is Josh (Jeremy Allen White). He’s also a hot-tempered loser, driving a Lyft, who’s dating Charlie’s terrific Iranian-American business partner, Mina (Sheila Vand). Charlie and Mina have a close working relationship, that includes a secret romance.
When renting the beautiful cabin to celebrate their sudden business success, the creepy vacation house manager, Taylor (Toby Huss), the brother of the property’s owner, rents to the white guy Charlie just after refusing to rent to Mina, probably, because of her Middle Eastern surname. For the rest of her stay there, Mina is uncomfortable living in the house of a bigot while the white folks pay no notice to her unease.
When Charlie and Mina do their thing in the shower after the others go to bed, they find a tiny camera embedded in a shower head and realize the house has many hidden cameras.
On their first night Michell refrains from getting high on drugs (she wants to go hiking in the morning), but on the second night they all imbibe.
The film builds its backstory with lots of talk before getting down to the gruesome things facing the deceitful vacationers, who when odd things occur try to determine whether the house is haunted or if the manager is a psychopath. As the story discards the relationship tale (its better half) and goes fully into its horror story, things become less appealing. It reaches a conclusion that’s not particularly thrilling and might not satisfy the hardcore horror crowd wanting more of a shocker, but is well-crafted even if its horror story is too familiar to make much of an impact. In any case, it shows that Franco is a promising filmmaker.
REVIEWED ON 7/23/2020 GRADE: B