Of the scares deployed in Hunter Stiebel’s short horror film bnb, many are genre staples: an unexplained creaking noise, a door shutting on its own, coming face-to-face with a leering antagonist.
But much spookier are the horrors unique to our cultural moment. The true boogeyman of bnb — with the potential exception of blocking a stranger’s toilet — is the looming specter of a negative online review.
The film shows millennial couple Harry and Sally arriving at their short-term rental late at night, finding their key under a flowerpot per their host’s emailed instructions. Stiebel’s first Airbnb key was hidden in a barbeque, he told Scorpius, but the experience provided “fairly straightforward” inspiration for bnb.
“I felt uncomfortable from the very get-go,” Stiebel said of his first experience with the home-sharing app. “I didn’t think I would be, but all of a sudden I was in someone’s home, and we didn’t know if they were home or they were out … which just kind of got my anxieties or what have you – all my neuroses – going.”
bnb is Steibel’s “neuroses run wild,” and his first foray into writing and directing. The film’s narrative isn’t quite as tight as it could be, and the dialogue errors on the expository side, but it represents a playful approach to a thought-provoking premise.
“It’s really a commentary on the whole idea that, with the way that the internet has gone … we spend way less time actually interacting with people in person and way more time living isolated lives on our screens,” Steibel explained. “In contrast with the emergence of the sharing economy, where these places that used to be private sanctuaries … we’re now letting complete strangers in. There’s this clash of not really learning these social graces and interactions with people but now need them more than ever. It creates a beautiful playground for paranoia.”
Although bnb focuses on the home-sharing industry, it also touches on rideshares, again latching onto viewers’ collective anxieties surrounding rating and being rated. Steibel told Scorpius that he’s currently writing a series-long exploration of the sharing economy at large. Overshare, starring bnb’s Harry and Sally, will examine the way we share space, time and information in an increasingly public digital age.
“Pretty much it’s Hitchcock meets Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Stiebel said. “It broadens it beyond just the sharing economy of Uber or Airbnb to the concept that all of our information is out there and all of our personal elements are overshared.”
Like bnb, Overshare promises to address experiences painfully familiar to even the most casual of app users. Both pieces hit, as Steibel put it, “close to your home away from home.”
You can catch bnb on Xfinity Streampix.