The Rental

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Despite their purpose as a place of respite, hotels have long staked out their place in the darker side of our collective subconscious. Establishments like the Bates Motel or the Overlook Hotel elicit such feelings of dread, that even a hint of their facades in a prospective lodging for the night is enough to encourage us to pass on by. With The Rental, Dave Franco tries to evoke the same fear in Airbnbs, and for the most part, succeeds.

To celebrate securing seed money for their company, business partners Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Mina (Sheila Vand) rent out a beautiful beach house for the weekend along with Dan’s wife Michelle (Alison Brie) and Mina’s boyfriend Josh (Jeremy Allen White), who is also Dan’s brother.

Get Away From It All

As with Palm Springs, saying too much about The Rental would ruin the enjoyment, but for very different reasons. It is safe to say that even before they run into problems with the house rules, or the slightly ‘off’ caretaker Taylor (Toby Huss), the two couples bring more than enough emotional baggage (and booze and drugs) with them, to mess up the trip all by themselves.

Franco deftly handles the couple’s various problems so well that you almost forget that this is supposed to be some sort of horror/thriller and not just a relationship drama. Josh needs to deal with his feelings of inadequacy when it comes to Mina’s intelligence. Michelle starts to deal with her tacit denial of the supposedly platonic bond between Charlie and Mina. Mina herself grows increasingly frustrated at the others’ (very Caucasian) blindness to the caretaker’s very obvious racism towards her. Oh, and Dan Stevens is just a lovely scamp as usual, or is he?

Pretty soon the group must deal with a couple of terrible problems of their own making, before an outside, unknown threat arises.

With such a focused single location and small cast, Franco leans on his obviously talented squad to really bring these characters to life.  They are all excellent in their roles, and only the tense score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, and the camerawork that suggests someone is watching, hint that relationships aren’t the only thing to get damaged this weekend. He’s no slouch when it comes to visuals either with some truly arresting uses of light and fog.

I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watchin’ Me

Despite its brisk 88 minute runtime, I did find myself wondering if I had been misled and that this was, in fact, going to be a relationship drama, but then the final act kicks in, and it becomes all too clear what’s Franco’s been planning.

In a clever move, the “story”, such as it is, actually ends before the film is over, with a coda that reveals Franco’s true goal for the film: to make the audience terrified of renting a stranger’s house ever again.

He succeeds.

The Rental
88 minutes
Director: Dave Franco
Writers: Dave Franco, Joe Swanberg, and Mike Demski
Cast: Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Jeremy Allen White, and Toby Huss.

The Rental is now showing in Malaysian cinemas and streaming on VOD

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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