July 22nd, 2020
MOVIE: THE RENTAL
STARRING: DAN STEVENS; ALISON BRIE; SHEILA VAND; JEREMY ALLEN WHITE; TOBY HUSS
DIRECTED BY: DAVE FRANCO
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
In the horror genre, the home invasion movie still scares me. It might be a reason why I’m a big fan of the Halloween series, with Michael Meyers being the epitome of the masked invader. It is rooted in the ultimate loss of comfort and safety. The Strangers, The Devil’s Candy, or David Fincher’s Panic Room all have made me incredibly uncomfortable. The same can be said for Dave Franco’s (yes, The Disaster Artist star Dave Franco) directorial debut- The Rental. It’s a simple set-up. Two couples: Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michelle (Alison Brie) and Mina (Sheila Vand) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White), have the idea to rent a home at a sea-side getaway, where they can do some drugs, hike, relax, and enjoy eachothers company. From the get go though, things don’t seem right. There’s some underlying issues between the couples, some lingering attraction between Charlie and Mina, and the house they rented has more secrets than we can even imagine. The Rental is a thrilling horror film, possibly a bit too thin on plot, but excellent in building up tension. Make no mistake, The Rental will have you think twice about using AirBnB ever again.
The first shot of The Rental is a tell. Mina has her arms draped over Charlie, looking at the listing of the house on the computer as comfortable as a romantic couple. But they are not romantically involved. They are work partners and when Josh shows up after his shift as a Lyft driver, it’s easy to see that he’s short of the charisma that Charlie has. The path continues downward from there. Mina’s application for the house is rejected but Charlie’s is accepted a day later, pissing Mina off and casting a shadow of racial profiling by Taylor, the owner of the house- played perfectly by Toby Huss. Josh brought his dog Reggie when dogs are not allowed. There is still a sexual tension in the air. Alison Brie’s character is not oblivious to Charlie and Mina’s comfortable partnership, but there are also secrets about Charlie that will reveal he’s not as smooth as he seems. And then Mina finds a hidden camera while taking a shower. It’s a reveal that takes an uncomfortable situation and makes it ten times worse. Is Taylor watching them? Or is someone else waiting for his chance to attack?
Knowing that Franco co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Swanberg and the story with Mike Demski, the themes of The Rental make more sense. The chemistry of the characters work naturally and considering Swanberg had a part in Adam Wingard’s horrific family reunion, turned violent murder in You’re Next, he knows his way about setting up a home invasion. The house alone is a character, set by a cliffside, with a hot tub, a gorgeous wood patio, with the fog slowly rolling in. The direction from Franco is also well paced. There may have been a need for more depth on these characters, but Franco turns the tension up to the perfect level, delivering an ending that makes it all incredibly terrifying, and a worthy pay off.
The Rental is a strong first feature from Dave Franco. It already makes for a good movie to do a quarantine double feature with The Beach House from last week. But here he uses his characters in expert ways, especially Dan Stevens, who plays the slick looking “cool guy” to perfection, continuing his fantastic 2020 of movies- seriously, he steals the show in Eurovision. Yeah, I may be incredibly terrified by movies that involve home invasions, but it’s also that exhilarating feeling that makes horror movies the best genre in cinema. I just know that I won’t be going on any trips with friends soon. Maybe it is better we all stay in quarantine. Seems like the safer trip.
Written by: Leo Brady