Movie Review: “The Rental”

Like many of you, I find my available time to watch movies becoming scarcer and scarcer the older I become and the more responsibilities I take on. Another factor that keeps me from writing and reviewing as often as I may like is the scarcity of movies that catch my eye. I will always go out of my way to watch the next Scream film released, or a film from a specific director I am interested in, but it can be hard for me to make the leap of faith into a film I know nothing about. So too can it be difficult for a story to grab your attention from a brief trailer or a short summary – a lot of movies follow the same structure, and it is how the filmmakers decide to handle the finer details that so often decide whether a film is worthwhile or not.

My watching of The Rental can be chalked up to doing something on a whim. I hadn’t spare time and I decided to use it. Rather than do what I normally do, which is browse Netflix, Shudder, HBO Max, Tubi TV, and the dozens of other streaming services available, I made the distinct, deliberate decision to not be so damn picky for a change.

Overall, I could have done a lot worse than The Rental with my decision.

Directed by Dave Franco in his directorial debut, The Rental was co-written by Franco, Joe Swanberg, and Mike Demski. The film stars Dan Stevens, Allison Brie, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White.

It’s a basic film formula, really – The Rental tells the story of two couples who decide to share a seaside rental together in a vacation getaway. And, as you might surmise, given the genre, they’re not alone.

This isn’t a film that tries to reinvent the wheel, and, in that respect, feels very much like what you would expect from someone’s directorial debut. It uses ingredients we’ve tasted before, and, all in all, doesn’t deviate from the recipe in any major fashion. It primarily focuses on two specific traits – that of a slasher film and that of a relationship drama.

It isn’t uncommon at all for filmmakers to try and bring a guest over to the dark-side for a film, the genre can be a haven for psychological study, allegories, and even comedy. However, it can be a double-edged sword. In this instance, I couldn’t help but feel like neither trait was explored to its fullest. They aren’t at odds with one another, but neither feels like they reach their potential. The dramas veers away as its reaching its climax whereas the horror enters too little, too late. The villain feels like it relies less on the villain itself and more on the concept of the villain, but it simply isn’t clever or unique enough to do that. None of it is bad, most of it is engrossing, but all of it feels a little short-changed.

I believe this can be seen with how fast certain things happen, how they’re trying to checkoff things as swift as they can. Characters exposit information, and everything is set-up neat-and-tidy, all of it easy to telegraph. The drama can be seen from a mile away and doesn’t have any particular wrinkles to speak of, whereas the horror itself is also familiar and holds little beyond its basic premise. It spends all of its time planting seeds, be it of the looming threat in the background or the dysfunctional relationships, but they’re never watered and given enough sunshine to sprout anything.

As a film, it is pretty nicely made. Everything’s capably, inoffensively created. It’s a modest, but solid freshman effort for Dave Franco, and one I’d, in turn, recommend with what I’ve said in mind.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0