The Rental Movie Review
The one thing more terrifying than catching coronavirus at your next AirBnB is discovering a camera in the shower. Dave Franco, in his directorial debut, taps into this real-life horror with The Rental, an entertaining if slight horror-thriller about two couples who rent a beautiful house for the weekend only to find something worse than bed bugs.
Aesthetically crisp and arguably beautiful at times, The Rental may take itself too seriously, but in a satisfyingly succinct 88 minutes delivers an engaging, even sexy story that doesn’t necessarily go the direction you’d expect. Sort of.
After Dan Stevens and Sheila Vand have a tryst in the shower--a problem given they are each spending the weekend with their significant others, played by Alison Brie and Jeremy Allen White respectively. After they realize they may have been videotaped, they debate their best course of action--given that confronting the culprit would reveal their infidelity.
Of course, that may not be their biggest problem.
Visuals aside, the cast is aces. Even though The Rental is a horror film, much of its first two acts revolve around the interactions of the four leads (with Toby Huss also appearing for a few minutes). While it may not always land its dramatic punches--as the movie wears on, some of the decisions the characters make start to bend common sense--Franco does a fine job setting the stage, developing four flawed but likable characters. Given the film’s runtime, Franco and co-writer Joe Swanberg deserve plaudits for what they were able to do in such a lean, stripped down format.
The movie loses some of its luster in the final act, surprising given that’s when the plot takes a turn for the horrific. Franco’s unexpected (albeit in hindsight slightly predictable and entirely formulaic) pivot could have worked exceptionally well, but without giving away details, the new direction isn’t entirely satisfying. It’s not that the movie isn’t as brutal as it could have been; it’s that Franco, clearly trying to tap into the fear of staying in a stranger’s home and connecting to real-life incidents where visitors have discovered cameras, could have delivered something much more terrifying had he had not gone the stereotypical route. I’m not someone who typically prefers a more nuanced, less bloody horror movie, but if there’s one that deserved such a treatment, it’s The Rental. Unfortunately, as is, the movie falls short of doing anything exceptional.
The Rental is worth seeing. With such a short runtime, strong writing, and a great cast, it has too much going for it to be overlooked. Even still, a better third act would have earned this a stronger renter’s review.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.