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‘The Rental’ is a below-average thriller but decent directorial debut

‘The Rental’ is a below-average thriller but decent directorial debut

‘The Rental’ is a below-average thriller but decent directorial debut
August 07
19:17 2020

Dave Franco directed, co-wrote and produced a thriller. Good for him! He makes his directorial debut by breaking into the slasher genre and pretty much does just okay. The plot is simple enough — two millennial couples take a celebratory weekend getaway in a rental beach house and things slowly start to go awry. There isn’t necessarily a lot of risk-taking, in its structure or its execution, which is ultimately why it doesn’t stand out in the genre and would otherwise be forgotten if Franco wasn’t attached.

As far as low-budget thrillers go, everything here has been done before and better. I’ll admit that sounds harsh, but that doesn’t mean the flick is without its thrills. Even under tight budget constraints, the shocks can be effective here and there, especially in its final act (make sure to stick around for the credits, too).

Being Franco’s directorial debut and all, I wish it stood out more within the horror/thriller genre, even the slasher sub-genre for that matter. Maybe my expectations were misplaced, but I hoped it’d be darkly comic in some way? Or just generally ambitious? Whatever. I suppose not every movie has to aspire to be genre-defining or groundbreaking. Some films should be allowed to just exist.

Franco set out to make a slasher thriller and mostly succeeded, though this slow-burn flick doesn’t really add up to much in the end. I don’t necessarily see it as a flaw when a movie uses familiar story beats and structures, because what filmmaker doesn’t borrow? What’s a shame here is that in the end, Franco doesn’t do anything different within those same story beats that we’ve all seen before.

“The Rental” is a moody movie in every way from its visuals, scoring and characters. The two couples have no problem finding little things to wedge in between their relationships during their stay. As far as the cast goes, Dan Stevens and Allison Brie are on autopilot here, but honestly, I don’t care. I could watch them in any serviceable role and I’d praise them to death for just being there. Just as the character dilemmas on their own start to overstay their welcome, the spooky stuff starts to kick in and doesn’t let up until the screen cuts to black.

Some part of me wishes this cautionary Airbnb movie was outlandishly ridiculous and terrible so it’d at least be more entertaining, but oh well. Maybe then Franco’s brother, James Franco, would swoop in and make a hilarious true-story comedy about it 15 years later (this is a “Disaster Artist” joke, I’m not subtle). Jokes aside, I respect Franco for doing his own thing and if he wants to make a mediocre moody thriller, he’s allowed to do just that. Even though Franco shows scattered promise in his initial directorial effort, I’ll be sure to look out for what comes next. 

A couple of final takeaways from this film —  First, you truly have to be a psycho to want to stalk these uninteresting couples with even less interesting problems. Second, maybe read online house rental reviews more intricately next time? And third, if you love slasher movies then you’ll probably find this one serviceable.

“The Rental” is available for rental on iTunes now. 

You better believe I got a kick out of writing that line. 

Final rating: 2.5/5

Featured image: Courtesy IFC Films

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Dawson Turner

Dawson Turner

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