[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Rental.]
Two couples looking to get away for a quick weekend break get more than they bargained for when they use an Airbnb-like site to lock down a plush house on the Pacific Northwest coast in Dave Franco‘s directorial debut, The Rental. The indie thriller from IFC Films stars Dan Stevens and Alison Brie as Charlie and Michelle, a married couple going on vacation with Charlie’s business partner, Mina (Sheila Vand), and Josh (Jeremy Allen White), who is both Charlie’s brother and Mina’s boyfriend. What is meant to be three days of relaxation quickly descends into a nerve-wracking stay at a stranger’s home. Over the course of 24 hours, an infidelity is consummated, secrets are accidentally disclosed, and, unbeknownst to the group, a masked killer is stalking them with sinister intent.
The Rental builds to a shocking — and open-ended — finale which might leave you curious to unpack what actually happens. Keep reading if you’ve seen The Rental, but still need an explainer on the final, twisty act.
What Happens at the End of The Rental?
The final act of The Rental kicks off with Charlie, Michelle, Mina, and Josh’s vacation rapidly souring after Michelle tells the group she’s asked Taylor (Toby Huss), the rental home property manager, to come over to fix the hot tub so she can use it. This coincides with Josh realizing his and Mina’s dog, Reggie, is missing, leading to panic over Taylor possibly throwing the group out for violating the “No pets” rental rule. Theorizing Taylor might have somehow taken Reggie, a paranoid Josh prepares for a confrontation as Charlie, Mina, and Michelle try to reason with him about how ridiculous his theory sounds. All of this only raises the tension in the group.
Taylor arrives, fixes the hot tub, and is very nearly out the door when Mina asks him to come look at the showers. After a charged introduction the day before, with Mina all but verbally accusing Taylor of racist behavior toward her (which she has every right to believe is true), Mina takes Taylor into one of the bathrooms to show him the secret camera in the shower head. Mina and Charlie have been freaking out since they discovered the camera, knowing it has filmed them hooking up behind Michelle and Josh’s backs and could be used against them. When Mina confronts Taylor since she believes he’s the one who installed them, he’s confused, denying any knowledge of the cameras. Taylor and Mina get into an altercation, leading to Josh rushing in and beating up Taylor to the point he’s nearly dead.
At this point, all hell breaks loose. Charlie and Mina reveal to Michelle and Josh the house is bugged, but don’t say what the cameras might have captured. Worries rise even more when they realize the cameras will have also captured Josh assaulting Taylor — a double whammy of bad shit for the group. As the group talks on the deck, the masked killer who has actually been recording the group for the past 24 hours enters the house and kills Taylor. Upon returning to Taylor’s lifeless body, the groups freaks out and hashes out their options. Determined not to let Josh take the fall for murder, Charlie resolves to dispose of Taylor’s body, and Mina and Josh agree to help. Appalled, Michelle wants to leave and go to the police, but goes into the bedroom first to lie down and process.
Charlie, Mina, and Josh throw Taylor’s body over the cliffs at the edge of the rental property. Meanwhile, Michelle discovers footage of Charlie and Mina’s shower hook-up is being broadcast on the living room TV (courtesy of the killer), and is so upset she packs up to leave. Charlie, Mina, and Josh go to find Michelle. Charlie catches up with her as she is driving away. Michelle confronts him about the cheating before driving off, where the killer has laid a trap and kills her. The killer then eliminates Charlie, who is searching for Michelle, and Josh, who tries to take out the group’s tormentor after he sends footage of the hook-up to Josh’s phone from Charlie’s. Finally, with her boyfriend and friends now out of the picture, Mina is forced to run for her life with a killer pursuing her through the house and woods on the rental property. Just when it looks like Mina might be able to get away, she runs through the foggy forest and drops out of sight, having accidentally headed right toward the cliffs at the property’s edge as dawn breaks.
The final moments of The Rental show the killer removing all evidence of his presence at the house. We watch as they remove more secret cameras and recorders from potted plants, light fixtures, and those pesky shower heads. They take off their mask and take a moment to bask in what they’ve done before petting the magically resurfaced Reggie and leaving to repeat the process of bugging another rental property in hopes of killing once more.
What Does the End of The Rental Mean?
The Rental taps into some very real fears about what it means to rent a stranger’s home for a casual getaway rather than go to a hotel. The unnerving possibilities of stepping into another person’s private space after you’ve paid to stay through services like Airbnb are endless. As Franco shared in his recent chat with Collider, he as co-writer wanted to explore what one of those unnerving possibilities might look like. He shared, “I think about how the country is as divided as it’s ever been, and no one trusts each other. Yet, we trust staying in the home of a stranger simply because of a few positive reviews online.”
Franco also touched on The Rental‘s use of covertly-installed surveillance equipment as a device to instill terror in the characters and how the risk of the devices in our own homes being hacked to listen in or record us is a very real concern today.
“I can’t help but constantly think about whether or not people are watching us through our computer cameras, and listening to our phone calls, and even when I’m on the phone with my family or close friends, in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, ‘Is someone else listening in on this?'”
All of this leads to the ultimate point of The Rental: It’s common for us to plunge into the unknown every day, and in a variety of scary ways which could go so wrong, so quickly — and we don’t even think about it. Using technology is a hazard. Trying to go on vacation and perhaps looking for a cheaper or cozier alternative to a chain hotel is a hazard. Hell, whether you decide to leave your home or stay cooped up is a hazard because, no matter what, you can be accessed by anyone who wants to interact with you. The boundaries between private and public life have eroded. The Rental taps into the fears of what can come rushing in when you least expect it.
Worse still, what can come rushing in is frequently some unknown entity. The Rental chooses to not reveal the killer’s identity or motives for doing what they do. This, as Franco told Collider, as a conscious decision which speaks to the movie’s larger themes around privacy and the exploration into the terrifying side of home rentals.
We want to keep the identity of the killer unknown. It was in the original script. Without giving away too much, there were early drafts of the script where we did have the villain monologuing about why they were doing what they were doing. It just felt preachy and cheesy. We decided to strip that away and felt like there was something much creepier about the ambiguity of it all. I feel like that’s all I can really say without giving away too much more.
Basically, The Rental is here to remind you to always be on guard. You never know who might be watching (or listening) to you.
Will The Killer in The Rental Continue to Kill?
It’s pretty clear the unknown killer will continue to terrorize unsuspecting rental guests with the same level of efficiency as they did with Charlie, Michelle, Mina, and Josh. As the movie wraps up and moves into the end credits, we see teases of the killer’s next victims. The end credits reveal the killer’s POV, with covertly-obtained footage showing a new group in a new rental exercising, cooking, watching TV, using the restroom, and sleeping. As the credits wrap up, we see the masked killer rush out from a closet to kill the first unsuspecting victim as they sleep.
Should a sequel to The Rental get made, it’s possible we’ll see even more from this killer — or a person operating in a similar manner. When we spoke with Franco about these end credits and whether it hints at a sequel, the first-time director shared, in part,
“I have a pretty strong idea for what I would do with the sequel if I was lucky enough to get the opportunity. Without giving too much away, I would want to explore the mythology of the villain a bit more, and also set the story outside of the U.S. because there are Airbnbs and home shares all over the world.”
And so, pleasure seekers beware. You never know what you might getting into when you rent out someone else’s home for a little R&R.
The Rental is now available in select theaters, drive-ins, and on-demand.
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.