Friday, November 25, 2022

The Rental

Movie Name:
The Rental
Year of Release: 2020
Director: Dave Franco
Starring: Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Jeremy Allen White, Toby Huss
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
Watch it on Amazon Prime

Synopsis and Review
Dave Franco has established himself as a solid and reliable actor, with films that range from "If Beale Street Could Talk" from Barry Jenkins, to "Fright Night" from Craig Gillespie with quite a few disposable titles in between (including the terrible Michael Bay feature "6 Underground" and even the recent J. J. Perry's "Day Shift"). "The Rental" is his feature directorial debut, whose script he wrote with Joe Swanberg, who previously wrote "Drinking Buddies", amongst others. The film follows a group of friends, more specifically two couples who decide to rent an AirBNB in Oregon, and have a weekend getaway. Charlie who is coupled with Michelle is the CEO of a startup. His brother Josh brings along his girlfriend Mina, who works with Charlie. Upon arrival at the rental, they meet the caretaker Taylor, who is the brother of the owner. Mina is somewhat miffed at Taylor and at the situation itself, since she thinks the owners are racists since she was unable to book the property, and only a few minutes later Charlie did so without issues (and she takes issues with some of Taylor's remarks as well). During the first night, Michelle proposes that the group experiments with some acid, though she herself abstains from doing so since she's tired. Charlie, Mina and Josh try it out, and while Josh passes out, Mina and Charlie end up making out and eventually having sex. The following day while taking a shower Mina discovers a hidden camera in the shower head, and quickly alerts Charlie. Not wanting to raise suspicions on their tryst, they choose not to disclose it. Later that evening Michelle calls Taylor to come over and fix the hot tub. Josh realizes his dog has gone missing. Things quickly escalate when Mina brings up the hidden camera with Taylor, who is unaware of it, and as an argument is generated, Josh bursts in and violently attacks Taylor. While Charlie is able to defuse the situation, and subsequently the group discusses what they should do, a masked individual gets in the bathroom and kills Taylor. 
"The Rental"'s most successful aspect is how economically driven its narrative actually is. Dave Franco quickly establishes the rapport and relationships between the characters (very similar to the archetype of your typical B-movie), giving a threadbare dimension to all of them, or at least just enough for us to understand who these characters are and some of their context/background which subsequently justifies their later actions. The film also succeeds in creating a progressively uncomfortable environment, though it could have benefited from leveraging more the isolation and seclusion of the house, and also the claustrophobia and voyeuristic aspect that peppers the modus operandi of the killer itself (and the fact that they're somewhat trapped in that house and area). The quick escalation of the killings is quite effective, and the fact that the ominous figure is never explained or further clarified, also adds up to the tone of the narrative itself. The central cast is equally solid in their performances, creating a sense of verisimilitude to the relationships between themselves, the same going for Toby Huss' supporting performance as the possibly racist Taylor. The cinematography from Christian Sprenger is effective, as is the score from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, while the production design from Meredith Lippincott succeeds in creating the environment of a posh cabin, with some faint echoes of other horror features that also take place in cabins. Worth watching.