Dave Franco shows that he's more than capable as a writer/director with The Rental, capturing tension and thrills in a compact slice of modern cinema. Some might leave this film wanting a bit more and that's totally acceptable, but as a straight-up horror flick, The Rental gets by on its performances and simple premise.
Actor turned writer/director Dave Franco makes his full-length feature debut with The Rental, which stars Dan Stevens and Alison Brie and is now available to rent on VOD as of this past Friday. The Rental promises steady jumps and a mysterious backstory as it leans heavily on its performers and Franco’s ability to point and shoot, occasionally grabbing something truly worthwhile, but mostly settling for surface-level scares and a hearty dose of creepy.
The Rental follows Charlie (Dan Stevens), Michelle (Alison Brie), Mina (Sheila Vand) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White) as they rent a getaway home for the weekend on a secluded, but gorgeous property. Charlie and Michelle and Mina and Josh are two couples with common interests. For starters, Charlie and Josh are brothers and Charlie and Mina are good co-workers, just landing a deal of a lifetime and hoping to celebrate with each other and their significant others with a well-deserved weekend trip.
What starts off as a simple trip quickly turns into an uncomfortable and eerie experience as the four encounter strange occurrences and random acts without explanation.
The Rental is a fairly simple movie, relying heavily on its collective assortment of great performers and a one-note plot that rides heavily on its location and of course director Dave Franco‘s ability to capture everything in a clean and presentable way.
I will say for his first go, Franco definitely nails the look and feel of the film, capturing clean and crisp shots that flow well and help move the story along from frame-to-frame. Structure-wise, The Rental is great in its ability to move quickly and not really get hung up on anything uninteresting or lacking real purpose on the screen. Franco shares a screenplay credit with Joe Swanberg and both of them share a story credit with Mike Demski and knowing that I can say that The Rental is a tight-knit thriller, not wasting any time establishing the story and diving right into it.
Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White all share the screen with a four-pack of performances that fit the characters nicely and help expand the creepy story into something a little more complex. There are various relationships at hand, between brothers, between friends and between lovers and Franco and his team of writers do a fine job intertwining all aspects of these complexities in a way that allows for each actor to latch onto their role and dig into the emotional aspects of it.
Stevens plays Charlie with a calm and collected performance that’s also unafraid to bend the truth or explore other options when needed, which makes for a character that can’t fully be trusted, yet you can’t exactly disagree with him given the circumstances that are unfolding.
Brie plays a somewhat more restrained character that is mostly processing everything presented before her. What I mean by that is her character is more reactive than proactive, rarely getting into a problem, but quickly and more efficiently finding her way out of them as they pop up.
Vand impressed me the most from this film, giving a performance that’s borderline likable/unlikable, because of how she handles situations and attempts to justify her actions.
Lastly, White delivers a performance that’s probably not as active as the rest, yet delivers the most intensity when the moment calls for it. His ability to give us so much backstory on a character without actually showing us the backstory is great and a true representation of how an actor can sink into a role and bring their own ideas into them.
I know these character descriptions sound vague and probably only make half-sense and that’s intentional. I feel some of the best moments of The Rental are best left to be discovered versus spoiled and I will refrain from talking much about anything past the point of them arriving at the weekend home.
Dave Franco hasn’t exactly hit it out of the park with The Rental, but he definitely has made his mark, with a film that’s visually coherent, paced accordingly and acted with ease from all of its performers. There’s enough mystery and suspense to keep you focused on the screen, yet I almost felt a little cheated with how it ended not really explaining much, but just expecting you to sit in your own thoughts, thinking about what unfolded.
Some might discredit this as surface-level horror and I guess that’s fair, but that makes me bring up the point that not all movies need to have ulterior motives or subtext galore. Sometimes, a filmmaker just wants to tell a scary story and do it in a way that’s entertaining and easy to digest, which is exactly what The Rental is.