The Rental Movie Review: Dave Franco Saves Horror?
When I saw The Hunt back in March (read my review here), if I’d known that it would be the last movie I’d see in a theater for months, then would I have been more generous? Pfft, absolutely not. Like Stetson Kennedy, I’m the loudest yeller, and I usually reserve that loudest yelling for horror. It is my favorite genre, after all, so I have higher standards for it than other categories, even during a pandemic. So with that attitude in mind, here’s my review of the movie The Rental.
What Is The Movie The Rental About, Exactly?
image via IFC Films
Dave Franco apparently hates house-sharing. Because along with Joe Swanberg (Easy), he wrote this movie, based on a story by Franco, Swanberg, and Mike Demski.
And it’s a fairly simple story. Married couple Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michelle (Alison Brie), along with Charlie’s brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White) and his girlfriend Mina (Sheila Vand) rent a house for a celebratory weekend. I believe it’s something folks used to call a vacation? Am I saying that right? Anyway, it was where you’d leave your home and go stay somewhere else.
The group, along with Josh’s dog Reggie (Chunk), arrive at the stunning home on the Oregon coast. There they meet the owner’s brother, the caretaker Taylor (Toby Huss). There’s already a bit of tension. First of all, they’re not even supposed to have any pets there–they smuggle in Reggie. In addition, Mina had tried to book the house first, but her request was rejected. However, Charlie requested the house right after her, and Taylor accepted his booking. Mina confronts Taylor about it when they arrive, but he brushes away her concerns.
As the weekend unfolds, the tension only grows. There’s some relationship drama here that’s both implied and overt. And that might make a vacation uncomfortable enough on its own, but then things get even worse. Taylor enters the home when they’re not there. Even though he’s just dropping off a telescope, which the group had wished earlier that they’d brought, Mina is unnerved.
And then she discovers a camera in a shower head. Due to circumstances I won’t reveal (because of spoilers), she can’t share this revelation with the group. She really should have, though.
I’m Sorry, Did You Say “Dave Franco”?
Yes, this is his directorial debut.
The Rental Movie Review
image via IFC Films
Like I said, this is a simple story, and it’s not an unheard-of trope in horror. To wit, folks leave the house and things go bad (the theme in many of these social distancing horror movies). Franco and Swanberg don’t appear to be saying anything complex, beyond “AirBNB is creepy” or “so is the increasing surveillance in our lives,” but that’s okay. Horror doesn’t always have to be about something big to be affecting or scary or just good.
And this movie is better than good. While it wasn’t the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, Franco’s direction succeeds in ratcheting up the anxiety you feel. Along with characters like Mina, we know something is wrong here and we’re just waiting for the dam to burst.
But for me, where the story really succeeds is in the surprise. We may know that there’s something amiss, and we expect that things are going to turn sour, but when it comes to the motive or the meaning, we’re just as in the dark as the characters. And when that dam does come crumbling down, when their paranoia explodes and then it goes sideways from there, it’s killer.
Franco knows the value of keeping some things a mystery, so while the ending may leave some viewers feeling unsatisfied, it impressed me. There’s not always rhyme or reason behind scary events, and this movie understands that that’s often the scariest story of all.
So whadya know–Dave Franco may have made the best horror movie of the year.
Oh and before y’all ask, no, the dog does not die.
The Rental is available for, uh, rental right now on video on demand sites like Google Play, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video. You can see the trailer below.
Have you watched The Rental yet? Share your thoughts with us about it in the comments or on social media.
featured image via IFC Films
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at [email protected]