Director: Dave Franco
Writer(s): Dave Franco, Joe Swanberg
Cast: Allison Brie, Dan Stevens, Jeremy Allen White, Sheila Vand
Synopsis: Two couples rent a vacation home for what should be a celebratory weekend get-away.
I feel like there isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t have an irrational fear of someone constantly watching them. Whether it be in the comfort of their own home, or on a fun vacation getaway, there is always the thought in the back of your mind that makes you wonder if you are as safe as you believe you are.
In the directorial debut for Dave France, he attempts to make the irrational fear into rational thought. This concept that Franco, who also co-wrote the script, leaned heavily on is the best thing that comes from this movie. He attempts to effectively pull out the fear that everyone has but doesn’t want to claim they have. We have seen horror movies of this caliber evolve over the years into more real and grounded character dramas, as well as being terrifying.
What we get with The Rental is a devolving of the genre that has been on the rise over the past few years. This movie doesn’t try to tell a larger story and doesn’t fully utilize it’s premise either. This movie is a slasher film that doesn’t have very much slashing. The story is far too contained within itself that it never gets the chance to fully explore the themes that are set up if there even are any to begin with.
The lack of exploration in this movie is even more troubling when you are watching it because the direction of the film is very solid. Akin to Jon Watts’ film Clown, the direction in the movie is head and shoulders above the rest. Dave Franco himself is focused and attempts to deliver on everything the film has to offer, even though there isn’t much to deliver upon. The movie was dark, sometimes too dark, and had an eerie tone that really tried its hardest to work, but never quite reached solid fear levels. The dialogue is sloppy and the story behind it becomes cheap later on into the movie, with the ending being a real head-scratcher that can only be seen as unsatisfying. I can see what he tried to go for, as it is similar to things I wrote for my screenwriting class in college, but someone should have told him it just didn’t work.
The performances are solid, especially from Allison Brie. She helps to build the suspense of the film, but there weren’t really any characters that I was able to fully latch onto. There wasn’t much character building in the writing, other than showing us some of the characters were kind of shitty, to begin with. In horror movies, you want to believe the characters have the upper hand in some way, but here it seems like they are always blind to what is happening around them. As an audience, you can pick up on some of the issues happening within the film, but I never once believed the characters fully understood what was going on around them.
This movie manages to get creepy and crawl under your skin at times, but I never thought it did that for the right reasons. There where many moments I could tell myself “I see where you’re going”, but it was played so safe that I could never shout out “HE WENT THERE”. That is the hardest pill to swallow with this film, is you can see and pick out everything that Franco wants to do, but he plays it far too safe to go to those places. He knew the premise he wanted to work on, and while I applaud him for having the faith in his audience to be able to relate to the fears in this movie, I wanted him to dive much deeper into the true horrors of the film.
Final: A solid directorial debut from Dave Franco that starts with an interesting premise, and quickly devolves into a slasher film with not much slashing. The ending will leave you head-scratching and wanting more, in the worst of ways. Franco had all the tools to make this a truly interesting movie, but if his name wasn’t attached I don’t think many would care. I would like to see more from Franco in the future, but hopefully, it’s better than this.
Awards Prospects: None
Check out this film everywhere on July 24th.
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.