Two couples on an oceanside getaway grow suspicious that the host of their seemingly perfect rental house may be spying on them. Before long, what should have been a celebratory weekend trip turns into something far more sinister, as well-kept secrets are exposed and the four old friends come to see each other in a whole new light.
Anybody that truly knows me knows that I am a massive fan of the horror genre. I have definitely seen more films in the horror genre throughout my life than any other genre out there. If executed properly, there is just nothing quite like a creepy horror film in my opinion. That’s why my expectations for Dave Franco’s The Rental were quite high.
Going into the film, however, I didn’t know a single thing about it. The only thing I saw in the way of promotional material was the absolutely incredible poster that gave off major Hereditary vibes. Sadly, the only thing Hereditary and The Rental have in common are good posters. The former is an absolute masterpiece and the latter is a massive missed opportunity on so many levels.
The biggest problem with The Rental is that it simply doesn’t have any memorable scenes or a story that’s compelling or intriguing. This movie is only eighty-eight minutes in length and the first forty of which are filled with painfully boring scenes that lead absolutely nowhere. We watch scene after scene of people making out, going for walks in the forest, and getting excited to do drugs with not even a hint of creepiness mixed in. It’s actually quite frustrating to watch because it felt as if Franco and his co-writer Joe Swanberg didn’t really have any idea where they wanted to make the film. They may have had a great idea in their head but it just didn’t translate well when they tried to put it on paper so they did their best to pad out the running time so it could be at least feature-length.
If you were to leave in only the “creepy” scenes in this film and removed everything else, the film would be about five minutes long. Even the moments in which you start to think that maybe something of interest is about to happen, it slowly descends into familiar territory. But if I had to pick out the best part of the movie it would easily have to be the third act, because there, we finally get some moments of entertainment, even if they, too, are a little bit tired and predictable.
The Rental also has an ending that was strikingly underwhelming and will leave you feeling exhausted. It’s a glum and hopeless ending, but that’s not why it’s a problem. I am all for a depressing ending in a horror film. Hereditary and Midsommar are my two favorite films ever made, and both of them end in tragic and heart-wrenching ways. But what makes their respective endings so great and exciting is because they make sense and they work in favor of the story. Here, the ending makes the rest of the movie beforehand feel extremely pointless and will make you feel as if you just wasted your time.
This picture isn’t entirely awful though. One of the strongest aspects by far is the acting all across the board. Dan Stevens and Alison Brie in particular deliver strong, nuanced, and carefully quiet performances and they all feel at the top of their game here. Every time they were on screen, the film became a lot more tolerable to watch. It did make me wish that I was watching another movie with them in it that was more deserving of their talents, though.
Aside from the cast being stellar, the movie is also immaculately shot by Christian Sprenger. It’s funny how a film with such a bland and trope-filled story can look so shockingly beautiful. There are some uses of lighting here as well that were genuinely quite clever and surprised me in a good way. I can’t wait to see what picture Sprenger decides to shoot next because if it’s anything like his work here, then it is sure to look great.
Another strong aspect of The Rental is the musical score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. It’s wistful and creepy in all the right ways and when some of their tracks are placed in certain sequences, they make them stand out a lot more.
It’s just a shame that the film as a whole had to be so dull and at the end of the day, extremely forgettable. It has some great aspects on display such as the brilliant cinematography by Christian Sprenger, the acting all across the board, and the score, but it just has too many problems to be enjoyable in the long run.
Nuanced performances and an excellent atmosphere can’t save The Rental from being a tired and massively forgettable entry in the horror genre.
Overall Grade: C-
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexuality
Directed by: Dave Franco
Distributed by: IFC Films
Release Date: July 24, 2020
Running Time: 88 minutes