The Rental  Review – Voyeurism and Paranoia abound Dave Franco’s directorial debut
An indie-horror film that hinges on the premise of homebound paranoia can get anyone’s wits shrouded. Especially when you are on a weekend celebratory getaway and being secretly watched is not one of your fetishes. In Dave Franco’s directorial debut ‘The Rental,’ two couples on an oceanside getaway have to face their fates when one mistake leads to another.
Charlie (Dan Stevens) & Mina (Sheila Vand) work together in what looks like a startup. They have a close working relationship with their intelligence and likes matching against all odds. From the opening frame, you could be easily misled that the two are a couple. They arent’! In comes Josh (Jeremy Allen White) – Charlie’s supposedly loser brother who is in a relationship with Mina. Charlie, on the other hand, is married to Michelle (Alison Brie) – a beautiful middle-aged woman who is supportive of Charlie’s ambitious endeavors.
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The plot revolves around a celebratory getaway that Mina and Charlie decide upon when their seed-funding gets through. Their respective partners are obviously overjoyed at the chance to chill for three days in a beautiful, posh, oceanview villa that is in close-count with a cliff. On the journey over, the four of them realize that when Mina had made a request for Airbnb her request was denied while Charlie’s went through. They realize that it is not going to be smooth sailing while they are there. To add to their worries, Josh has brought his dog along in spite of a strict policy to not do so.
When they arrive at the place they are blown away by the exquisite property. They decide to let the racist, assholic, and indulgent behavior of the caretaker slide as they plan to enjoy their time there. On their first night there, Josh, Mina, and Charlie decide to get high while Michelle decides to take the night off for rest. She asks them to save some of their drugs or her as she wishes to hike the following morning. With subtle hints, we see that Mina and Charlie have a close working relationship and that, their shared interest somehow puts Josh and Michelle is a overprotective, self-doubt mode. The night ends with tension building up between the characters as all of them wake up from terrible highs from their late-night stints.
Co-written by Joe Swanberg, ‘The Rental‘ sees Dave Franco dive into the realistic kind of horror that bases itself on real terrors. The whole idea of people renting a house owned by strangers while completely letting go of what secrets hide in certain corners of the house is as intriguing as it can get. The way Franco slowly builds the narrative around the tension within the characters feels like a safe but ballsy move. However, once things start escalating, the film resorts to home-invasion troops and the paranoia and tension just subsides.
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Heightening the tension that simmers between the couple out of their wedlock, commitment, and work-life, Franco entices a strong premise that fizzles out due to poor writing. There are not enough ways in which he plants his characters in certain situations. In spite of introducing lurid, dark atmospherics, and a real-time sense of dread, the film doesn’t quite hold up as a thriller or as a horror film. Franco doesn’t manage to twist the premise in any way, failing to subdue a bland progression thereafter. Usually, I like my horror films that don’t resort to theatrics, but the lack of it here doesn’t help either. The third act especially feels so far-fetched and lazily done that you try to figure out why so much effort was put into getting us acquainted with the characters in the first place.
The only saving grace left here is the casting. Sheila Vand as the final girl is definitely the high point of the film. She brings complexity to Mina by just providing her with a girthy and vulnerable persona. Dan Stevens as always has fun when he is under the genre spell. His character shows shades of grey in an otherwise charming personality. It’s only sad that Franco doesn’t use wife Brie Larson’s range to any possible narrative turns. The film has a good score and the technical aspects are quite sound but ‘The Rental‘ isn’t worth spending the extra penny or even the ride that leads you there.