The opening scene of actor Dave Franco’s directorial debut, The Rental, is very telling of the movie you are about to watch. We open on Charlie (Dan Stevens) looking at a luxurious AirBnB in his office with Mina (Shelia Vand) hanging over his shoulder. You can immediately tell there is a chemistry between Charlie and Mina as Charlie says, “this is just what I need right now” while Mina is ogling at the coast line.
But a few seconds later Josh (Jeremy Allen White), Charlie’s brother and Mina’s boyfriend enters the room, twisting the whole idea of what we thought was happening to something completely different. That is The Rental in a nut shell. It is a film that has you going one way only to pull you in the other.
The Rental begins relatively simple. Charlie, his girlfriend Michelle (Allison Brie), Mina, and Josh are going away for a weekend where they can relieve some stress and celebrate recent successes. They plan on hiking, hanging out, drinking, and possibly dabbling in some drugs. When they reach their beachside manor, they are greeted by Taylor (Toby Huss), an off-putting man who is brothers with the person who owns the house and looks after it while his brother is in the city. Though uncomfortable to be around, Taylor offers his services throughout the weekend whenever they need it. The trip quickly takes a dark turn when Mina finds a spy camera in her shower head. Not knowing who put it there, the two couples attempt to figure out what to do, though they don’t suspect what’s coming for them.
The Rental is classified as a horror/thriller, yet watching the first forty minutes of this tightly constructed eighty-eight-minute film doesn’t feel that way at all. The first half of the film feels more like a relationship drama between two couples. As the flirtatious tension between Charlie and Mina grows, Josh’s quick-triggered attitude makes him feel like a ticking time bomb that is about to catch Charlie and Mina in the act, which would crush Michelle’s heart, as she loves Charlie dearly. This part of the movie didn’t really excite me and was rather flat. The characters lacked any depth and everything was straight-forward. I was wondering if there was going to be any thrills or horror or if this was just going to be a run-of-the-mill relationship drama.
But The Rental is not a run-of-the-mill relationship drama. Just as I was about to give up on the film, Franco expertly twists the movie and makes it a horror film for the modern time. This is a movie that will terrify you before booking your next vacation. Franco keeps the tension tight and the thrills coming. The randomness of events that take place in the last half of the film are what makes it truly terrifying. You will never book an AirBnB the same again. The final sequence of the film is unnerving and something that has stuck with me since the credits rolled. It makes you think about the events that took place and the events that could take place after. It’s a chilling ending.
Though not perfect, The Rental is a movie that shows the beginning of a promising filmmaker. Dave Franco shows a true command of his script, understanding tones, tension, and drama, got good performances from his cast, and made the film aesthetically interesting. I am excited to see what Franco does next and hope that his directing career is as interesting as his acting career.
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