“The Rental” (US Rated R)
Cast: Alison Brie, Jeremy Allen White, Sheila Vand, Dan Stevens
Genre: Thriller/ Horror
Perhaps the giant mega resorts are on to something.
Even though many of us just want to get away from people while on vacation, sometimes there can be safety in numbers.
Clearly, smaller lodging options à la The Bates Motel (“Psycho”, 1960) can present…err… challenging experiences, if you go by what we see in movies.
Who could ever want to stay in not-fully-booked, isolated inn far off the highway after seeing how Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates treats his guests? This would surely have to be your last resort in an “only the stables are left in Bethlehem” type scenario. And even then, yikes!
Well now, another hitherto viable option must be examined under the microscope. A new movie will make you question whether vacation rental homes – made all the rage by companies like Airbnb – are really where you should be spending your next holiday weekend.
In “The Rental”, 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.
“Neighbors” and “The Disaster Artist” star, actor Dave Franco (James’ brother) makes his directorial debut here. “The Rental” debuted last month in the very few theaters that are actually open globally and on video on demand.
Franco also co-produces and co-writes this psychological thriller that starts off at a slow, simmering pace. We spend a good deal of time learning tidbits about both couples. At points during at least the first third of the way, the pace feels a bit glacial. But stick with it!
Other than a foreboding soundtrack, even Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Psycho” takes the long road before revealing the exact direction in which the film will head (although that classic is never glacial).
But with the “The Rental” – dark and brooding, and utilizing some interesting background music – there’s a sense that something terrible is going to happen from the very beginning. And soon enough, things kick into high gear, and we transition to regular “slasher” flick.
The cast, though, deserves some credit for elevating this above those typical pictures. Franco’s wife Alison Brie (TV’s “Community”, “BoJack Horseman”, “GLOW”) along with Jeremy Allen White (TV’s “Shameless”), Dan Stevens (the live- action “Beauty and the Beast” and TV’s “Downton Abbey”) and especially Sheila Vand (“Argo”), do a great job ushering along all the usual thriller/horror jumps and thrills and screams. However, “The Rental” is not exactly predictable, and that’s quite refreshing.
It does leave a lot of unanswered questions by the end, though, including, are we likely to see more “rentals” in the future? And are you really sure you want to stay at that place on your next vacay?
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.