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John’s Horror Corner: The Rental (2020), a decent thriller for Dave Franco’s feature directorial debut.

May 28, 2021

MY CALL:  A well-made thriller to be sure, but nothing I feel the need to recommend or ever see again. Entertaining, well-acted, and a promising start for Dave Franco’s filmmaking career at the helm.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The RentalWell. For more AirBnB vacations gone-wrong try Honeymoon (2014), 1408 (2007) and The Beach House (2019).

Seeking a luxurious weekend at a Pacific Northwest rental on the water, two couples find themselves getting off to a rocky start with the property manager (Toby Huss; Halloween, Martyrs, The Invitation). Without being overtly tropey about it, Charlie (Dan Stevens; Solos, Apostle, The Guest), Michelle (Alison Brie; Promising Young Woman, Scre4m), Mina (Sheila Vand; A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White; Shameless) do all the things we’d expect to place themselves at odds with survival. They break the rules of the rental by bringing a dog, they aggravate the manager repeatedly including accusing him of racism, they indulge in some drugs, and opposite couple members end up in a hot tub together… in short, the kindling is set to increase tensions and fuel this fire.

Some of the couples’ own drama gets tangled up in their best chances of survival when secrets emerge and keeping those secrets increase risk to everyone. As tension and paranoia mount, it becomes unclear who is telling the truth and which secrets are the most important to keep.

Clearly, things are going to get out of hand, people will be at odds with one another, relationships will be tested, and an “enemy” will be identified. Oh, and someone is accidentally killed. Dealing with that is always fun.

For his opening feature directorial debut, Dave Franco delivers a very well-made, even if readily forgettable, contemporary horror-thriller. I guess I was expecting a weird twist or spin on the thriller genre, or at least a more gritty slasher aspect. But the “twists and turns” presented were not particularly compelling on their own merits. That said, general filmmaking skill and the cast’s performance produced a good product and I hope Franco sticks to horror.

Overall this was a perfectly enjoyable movie that I feel no need to strongly recommend to anyone. It’s an entertaining watch, but it brings nothing particularly special to the table. The film’s greatest strength is its strong cast that is well-written, along with apparently solid direction and photography. But proficiency alone is no reason to recommend a movie.

One Comment leave one →
  1. rdfranciswriter permalink
    May 29, 2021 2:18 am

    That’s the gist of what I’ve been reading: Dave’s showing a lot of promise in his debut. You won’t go back to watch it again, but you will surely watch Dave’s next film. I am also sensing the opinion that Dave’s directing is a bit more mainstream grounded, while James is a bit more arty-to-unfocused.

    But I still feel James’s The Disaster Artist is a really fine effort — both on the acting and directing fronts. I’ve watched it several times, already. What Rami did with Freddy, James did with Tommy. Just stunning . . . and spooky.

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