bnb (2018) Short Film Review

I’ve seen Hunter Stiebel’s short film, bnb twice now – once at the 5th Annual FilmQuest in Provo, Utah, and once at the 18th Annual Screamfest in Los Angeles.

Which means, this short is really making the rounds, and yes – it holds up quite nicely on a second viewing.

Harry (writer/director Hunter Stiebel) and Sally (Tate Hanyok) – (note the character names) are obsessed with giving (and getting) good and fair ratings on everything from ride-shares to Airbnb facsimiles (thus the film’s title). When they enter their latest stay, a dark and seemingly deserted home – what can go wrong, does. But is there more than just un-followed protocol happening at this place – or are these two vacationers in some real danger?

The film is a perfect blend of genuine laughs and good scares (the best of both comes about when the couple opens the master bedroom to inform their hosts that there is a problem with the toilet – brilliant).

Harry and Sally are the ideal incarnation of characters you will love to love and love to hate. They’re good people, but man – these are folks you’d probably grow tired of in a social situation – rather quickly. Obviously, that’s the point. They’re neurotic, jumpy, overly-happy and eager to please.

Stiebel and Hanyok absolutely get who their characters are. Their comic timing and line deliveries perfectly match the film’s overall style. And their performances further enhance the already present power of the written characters. They’re annoying folks – in the best possible way… they’re also entertaining.

bnb takes place in just one location, but as the audience, we never see much more than a bathroom, an entry-way and the bedroom which Harry and Sally are to occupy. What’s smart about this – is that it’s clearly a decent-sized home. So although this is certainly a comedy first and foremost – there’s some extra danger present – simply by making this home wholly unexplored (which of course is how Sally and Harry would keep it – they wouldn’t want a bad score for snooping, right?). There is a mention of a further exploration of the entire home – late in the film – which makes the story’s final revelation all the more creepy… and fun.

The dialogue is snappy and witty and immediately sets up that Harry and Sally are a bit over-the-top. All of the fabulous and knowing call-outs to horror cliches and characters (there’s a passing reference to Freddy Krueger) match perfectly with the expert pace, inventive camerawork and spot-on editing. I’ll again use the apt term “snappy” when describing the film as a whole.

Interestingly enough – working in concert with the film’s humor, is a bit of cautionary tale. It’s not lost on me that my very first time using an Airbnb for FilmQuest (I’m behind the times, folks) – happened to coincide with my first screening of this film. If you really stop and examine this business’s setup – and renters or rentees relying solely on an online profile and potentially sketchy recommendations – it’s a scary thing – for both sides.

And again, while bnb is a comedy, it presents (and in some cases, answers) real questions about the world we live in. Sure, it makes sense to use such services for convenience, and despite Harry and Sally being endearingly annoying – services like this hold an inherent danger and when you look deeper – a fear of the unknown.

Who are these people sleeping in your bed? And on the other hand – what kind of person is loaning out their private quarters? bnb taps into these very real doubts.

I’m unsure if any other current films have tackled such prime real estate as Airbnb/home-sharing services (at least in a horror environment). Regardless of whether bnb beat anyone to the punch – it’s a smart, goofy – and yes, snappy short film worthy of your time.

At FilmQuest – in addition to being an Official Selection, the film was nominated for Best Comedy Short.

In my wrap-up for this year’s Screamfest (check that out here), the film found itself as an “honorable mention” when I ranked the festivals many short films.

bnb is still playing the festival circuit, so keep an eye out for screenings in your neck of the woods (that way you won’t necessarily have to rent a questionable bnb — Air or otherwise).

Hey, I’m always looking out for my avid readers of 4.

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