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This week, there are two films about homes that are not quite the dream properties they appear to be.

The science-fiction horror work Vivarium (M18, 98 minutes, opens today, ) stars Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, both in this column a few weeks ago for the drama The Art Of Self Defense (2019). In this film, they are Tom and Gemma, an average couple looking for a starter home when they chance upon Yonder, a development the agent promises will be their "forever home".

In this icy satire of the property ladder, Yonder does turn out to be their forever home – just not in the way they expect.

Of late, Hong Kong has been the place for bitter comedies about the property market. In Dream Home (2011), a woman murders her way to a progressively nicer flat; in Room With A View (2019), a family goes on a rampage when a millionaire's obnoxious billboard obstructs their view of the sea, slashing the value of their apartment.

In Vivarium, a mostly Irish production selected for the Cannes Film Festival last year, the tone is much less literal. Tom and Gemma find themselves in a Twilight Zone landscape of the surreal in which everyday actions yield bizarre results.

Besides revealing home ownership's potential to be a nightmarish burden, the story asks cynical questions about consumerism and suburbia, and even darker ones about parenthood.

South Korean drama Parasite (2019), winner of the Best Picture Oscar, also makes a point about one social class feeding on another in a mansion on a hill. In this bleak, unsettling story, parasitism is about as real as it can be, and kept within the embrace of the family.

The Rental (NC16, 93 minutes, opens today, ) addresses another suburban fear: In Airbnb homes, guests are at the mercy of the owner's moral code.

What sets this apart from other cautionary tales about social media and the gig economy is style. Imagine a cabin-of-terror slasher movie that avoids tropes, such as jump scares, cute teen characters or a villain whose motive is tritely labelled as "insanity".

You might end up with this movie written by American Joe Swanberg, veteran of the so-called "mumblecore" scene. It is helmed by an actor making his directorial debut, Dave Franco. Yes, that Dave Franco, who worked with Swanberg in the Netflix drama-comedy series about sex, Easy (2016 to 2019), but who is known mostly for appearing in comedies (21 Jump Street, 2012; The Disaster Artist, 2017).

Vivarium stars Imogen Poots (left) and Jesse Eisenberg (right) as a couple looking for a
home. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

Four adults from San Francisco, some flush with tech money, find a dream Airbnb rental on the coast for a weekend getaway. As the hours wear on, however, friction in the group (Dan Stevens and Alison Brie as one couple, and Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White as another) gnaws at their sense of well-being. A secret discovered within the home triggers a chain of deadly events.


Humba Dreams stars J.S. Khairen as a student who returns home after his father's
death. PHOTO: NETFLIX

There is a lot to admire about a film that does away with terrible slasher tropes, such as jump scares, and replaces them with naturalistic dialogue. There is a surprising amount of plot to get through for a Swanberg production, though, and Franco struggles to give the story feelings of tension and release.


The Rental features Dan Stevens and Alison Brie as a couple on a weekend getaway. PHOTO:
GOLDEN VILLAGE

For a film that wears its naturalism far more easily, look to Indonesian indie drama Humba Dreams (2019, NC16, 75 minutes, Netflix, ). Part road trip, part coming-of-age story, it followRead More – Source

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