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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'The Rental' Review: Couples' Getaway Might Have To Take Some Things To The Grave

The four leads in a bathroom, looking at the tub
IFC Films

You know the bad feeling you get once in a blue moon with something you watch, that it will be a bit divisive for its target audience for whatever reason? That is ultimately the feeling that crept up on my spine during and after The Rental because there was just a lot missing that the trailer and marketing promises to you. A directorial debut for Dave Franco who also co-wrote the the movie alongside Joe Swanberg, it's about two couples (and a dog) who rent an Oregonian AirBnb for a weekend to relax, hike, drink and do drugs, as you do. Franco clearly has taken notes on his favourite horror movies but he also manages to set the mood right away which lasts for the entire 89-minute runtime. Sadly that doesn't exactly extend to the ambition of the piece in terms of what Franco and the rest are trying to accomplish.

We're off to a simple start; minimal amount of characters (couples, dog) in one location which is the house by the ocean. You learn the names, some relationship conflicts and get a sense of some hidden desires, then you're off to racist remarks from property manager Taylor (Toby Huss) and feeling that something unsettling is going on (spoiler alert: something unsettling is in fact going on). The film's main cast populated by Sheila Vand (Mina), Jeremy Allen White (Josh), Alison Brie (Michelle) and Dan Stevens (Charlie) have very believable chemistry together right from the get go, although all of them are capable of something more challenging than what they're given here with these characters. White especially gets going when the action begins, neatly shifting and twisting Josh's perspective when his motivations are themselves shifting, but you do wish that it didn't take such a long time to build up to it.

The setup, as described, is perfectly fine for a horror film but the problem is that we're stuck in the mud of relationship antics for way too long. Only the last quarter of the film really has the horror elements you want; it must however be said that you probably expected it to go the psychological route but it's influenced way more by slasher horror than anything else. It's a bit conflicting as a viewer because, yes, it's the best part of the movie but it's also something that makes the first half somewhat pointless and mostly mimics classic slasher horrors. One is left with a sour taste since the film is tastefully directed, shot and paced—plus there's a fitting score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, which compliments the gloomy mood—but the flat nature of the story and set designs are rather unsatisfying. Maybe it's worth renting once but becoming one of the classic slasher horrors might be out of the price range.

Smileys: Score, Jeremy Allen White, pacing

Frowneys: Tone, originality

You have to love a killer view, though.


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