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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Review: The Rental

Director: Dave Franco

Screenplay: Dave Franco and Joe Swanberg

Year: 2020

“The “Rental”, the most recent movie to come our way from production house IFC Films, popped into the radar of many for being the directorial debut of Dave Franco, brother of the renowned actor James Franco. As expected, this release has generated plenty of hype around it, although others, as is my case, were not expecting much from this movie. However, Dave Franco proves to have talent as a director and that the hype built around the film is well deserved and not just because of his last name.

In “The Rental”, two couples rent a luxurious house to spend a relaxing and fun weekend. Since the moment they get to know the house caretaker, they start having negative vibes about the place, but they do not allow this to ruin their vacations. However, once they discover they are being watched inside the house, their weekend takes an unexpected turn for the worst.

If there is a word that can be used as an adjective to describe what Franco does best in his movie, it would be tension. Since we are introduced to Mina (Sheila Vand; “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”) and Charlie (Dan Stevens; “Apostle”), who are workmates, the sexual tension between the two of them is palpable. This tension is used as an integral part of the plot and is present for a good portion of the movie. Later, it intertwines with the horror tension once the story progresses towards this field. Even the way the camera is used in certain shots plays in function of elaborating the tension.

As what usually happens with IFC Films movies, the progress towards horror happens slowly. In the preface of horror, much of the time is dedicated to the characters’ development, the atmosphere, and the situations that give way to the horror. Still, the sense of danger is actively being reinforced by showing images in which we see the protagonists being watched. The talent and great work from the cast make this first half more pleasant and the characters to be enjoyable and interesting, even when they are all overflowing with egotism. 

The horror arrives suddenly and unexpectedly but is welcomed after the built-up tension during the rest of the movie. This part of the film takes elements from the home invasion subgenre and the ‘70s and ‘80s classic horror cinema, and even from more recent movies such as “The Strangers”. Instead of taking the over-the-top route that usually accompanies this sort of movie, “The Rental” presents a realistic scenario that makes it much more unsettling.

“The Rental” uses a modern concept in online vacation property rental and gives it a sinister turn for which the terrifying value comes from how realistic it feels, more than from the visuals it presents. Its development is slow, but the work from the cast and the tension generated during most of the movie is effective in capturing the viewer’s attention. The horror arrives unexpectedly and doesn’t last long, but the realistic way in which it is portrayed, along with the tension that leads to it, makes it intense and frightening.

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