US, 2020. Drama, Horror.
Director: Dave Franco
Cast: Dan Stevens (Charlie), Sheila Vand (Mina), Alison Brie (Michelle)
Airbnb gone wrong.
Thanks to the internet we can now rent houses for the weekend to vacation more easily. Enjoy cozy homes in beautiful places for a short time, which otherwise and due to the economic limitations of the majority, they could not. But what about if some of these occasional inhabitants decide to copy the keys of the place? They will be able to enter the house as they please afterward. And even more, if this person’s plans are evil for future tenants. This idea, already revised in other flicks before, is presented in his first feature film by Dave Franco in The Rental, a story that Franco also co-writes.
Couples drama and a Peeping Tom
Mina and Charlie are partners in a small business. Before starting to work on a long and laborious new project, they decide to go on a weekend to relax and rent a house in a viewpoint on the beach. Charlie takes his wife Michelle, plus Mina brings Josh, who is Charlie’s brother. The house’s manager is Taylor, the brother of the owner, that has clear racist influences against Mina. The place is beautiful, so the couples are determined to have a fun weekend. But the coexistence between them brings inconvenient situations, but there is something even worse: they discover that they are observed through several cameras by an anonymous stalker.
Dave Franco has a directing debut that shows skill. He knows how to create a consistent atmosphere throughout the film. Also, obtains the committed performances of the lead actors, especially Dan Stevens as Charlie (The Guest) and Sheila Vand (A girl walks home alone at night). Franco knows how to use the natural elements surrounding this house away from any civilization. The deathly silence around and the fog that covers the place at night make them part of the film.
But, what it is?
Despite having high-grade manufacturing all around the technical aspects, there is a problem with the story. It seems that The Rental does not define what it is or merely wants to cover a lot of ground. The taste at the end is that the film did not suitably establish its true identity. It is at first a drama of slow development, although well performed by the actors. Then it transforms into a thriller, the characters being watch without knowing the intentions of this Peeping Tom. And finally, (not a spoiler since this is established before in the trailer) a slasher flick.
In this third act, when the stalker has revealed his true and murderous intention, it does not feel well earned. By investing so much in the development of the drama-thriller plot, the final part when the masked murderer shows himself seems to come out of another movie altogether. The killer’s intentions are unclear up until that point and not well established in the narrative. It appears that he wants to play cat and mouse with the characters by constantly monitoring them and fiddling with their minds. But when the moment comes of «closing» the matter, the masked man does so with a rush unexpected of someone who enjoys such Machiavellian and methodical machinations. Even the revelations in the final minutes are not convincing enough.
Skillfully made. Tries to cover a lot.
In The Rental, Drama and Thriller development is adequate, but horror is not. The third act is somewhat anticlimactic since there is not enough suspense. Like the murderer, Franco skillfully does the final part, efficiently and effectively, tense but lacks a correct build-up of the emotion of horror that even remotely will make our hair raise. Even so, with many positive elements, The Rental is a solid choice for a weekend for those who have no problem seeing a slow burner. It will depend on each viewer on how he receives the third act that will make or break the final decision of the film.
A well-made film. Reliable acting and a mysterious atmosphere. The plot of a combination Drama-Thriller-Horror tries to cover a lot. Some viewers will love it; others will feel stuck in the middle