M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!

Released on July 24, 2020. Available on digital download and On Demand from IFC Midnight!

THE RENTAL (2020)

Directed by Dave Franco
Written by Dave Franco, Joe Swanberg (screenplay), Mike Demski, Dave Franco, Joe Swanberg (story)
Starring Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Jeremy Allen White, Toby Huss, Connie Wellman, Anthony Molinari, and Chunk as Reggie the Dog!

One of many houses by the water style horror films released this year, THE RENTAL sports a great cast and a wonderfully wicked look at the complications that arise in relationships. Plus, there’s a masked killer running around in the dark with evil intent.

THE RENTAL features a quartet of young pretty people (THE GUEST’s Dan Stevens as Charlie, COMMUNITY’s Alison Brie playing Michelle, SHAMELESS’ Jeremy Allen White as Josh, and A GIRL WALKS HOME TONIGHT’s Sheila Vand as Mina) who rent a house by the beach from Taylor (the always awesome character actor Toby Huss). Taylor immediately rubs the group of youngsters the wrong way for renting to Charlie the white guy (Stevens) an hour after denying Mina the Persian woman (Vand) the house for the weekend, something Mina isn’t afraid to confront Taylor about. This awkward altercation makes for an uneasy beginning to the trip which is celebrating the success of Josh and Mina’s business. Complications arise when the lines between the two couples blur during their first night of partying and some lewd activity is caught on video that they discovered wired into the shower head. What transpires is not only the destruction of these two couple relationships, but their lives as it seems someone is stalking them from the shadows with deadly intent.

THE RENTAL is terrifying thanks to some complex relational issues from writers Dave Franco (brother of James) and Mighty Joe Swanberg that pull you in close before showing the teeth of the story. Even before the creepy guy in the old man mask in the shadows appears, the horror of self-destructive relationships is put front and center. Paranoia and tension reach a fever pitch by the midway point when they all find out there is video recordings of their shenanigans somewhere as they tear the house apart trying to find them. Franco and Swanberg, with co-writer Mike Demski, really know how to develop fascinating characters who may not be easy to like but are mesmerizing to watch trip over themselves and their own faults.

Dave Franco directs this tight little slasher/stalker film and manages to prolong the inevitable confrontation between the quartet and the man in the shadows to agonizing lengths. Once shit does start heading fan-ward, Franco isn’t afraid of being blunt and brutal with the violence. There are quite a few scenes that pay off fantastically (especially if you haven’t been spoiled by the trailer). Franco pulls a Hitchcock here as he shows the horror approaching an unsuspecting victim which only makes the violent punctuation to the scene more resonant.
THE RENTAL is another slow starter in terms of when the horror begins, but the acting is top notch and the complexity of the relationships were able to hold me over until the blood starts flowing. I’m sure some might disagree with the pace, but I was really impressed by the patient hand Franco has with doling out the terrors. The ending might leave some cold, but I found it to be all the more chilling in the callous and hopeless way everything wraps.

Click here for the trailer!!


THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!


#29 – THE RENTAL
#30 – ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE
#31 – REPLACE


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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