Bil’s rating (out of 5): B
USA, 2020. Black Bear Pictures. Story by Dave Franco, Joe Swanberg, Mike Demski, Screenplay by Dave Franco, Joe Swanberg. Cinematography by Christian Sprenger. Produced by Dave Franco, Elizabeth Haggard, Teddy Schwarzman, Ben Stillman, Christopher Storer, Joe Swanberg. Music by Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans. Production Design by Meredith Lippincott. Costume Design by Kameron Lennox. Film Editing by Kyle Reiter.
Actor Dave Franco makes his feature directorial debut with a horror thriller that treads on every cliche in the Cabin In The Woods handbook and gives them no discernible new life. Two couples travel to a gorgeous seaside mansion for a weekend getaway, Dan Stevens and wife Alison Brie, his brother Jeremy Allen White and wife Sheila Vand, who is also Stevens’ business partner. When they arrive at the house and meet its caretaker (Toby Huss) they are immediately put off by his brusque, kids-off-my-lawn manner, Vand particularly taking exception to his attitude towards her Iranian last name and believing him to be a racist jerk (she’s probably right, but it doesn’t help that she, like the other three, has a tendency to escalate any situation and then not take responsibility for doing so). The weekend is a disaster thanks in part to the fact that they can’t shake off their bad impression of Huss and get upset when he appears to be letting himself in without warning (the telescope they asked for shows up in the living room while they’re out on a walk). When Vand notices a camera in her showerhead and their dog goes missing, they realize something very unsettling is afoot, but it won’t be easy to do something about it: Stevens and Vand got drunk and had sex in the shower on the first night, which means that if they lodge a complaint about being observed, it might prompt the surfacing of footage of their indiscretion. They confront the man they think is watching them but things get violent before they can determine if he is the culprit, then an indication of something more sinister pops up and the film spills into the horror genre well after it has already exhausted our patience. These characters are all so odiously self-involved and boring that you’ll be begging for a masked murderer within five minutes of the film’s opening, as thoroughly appealing actors and beautiful cinematography can do nothing for bad dialogue and flat direction. The conclusion means to be ominous but, thanks to Franco’s never going beyond the most basic tropes of a slicer-dicer, it comes off as lazy and uninspired as everything else.