With limited cinemas being open due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been questioning whether to venture out to see the films in the theatre depending on the titles. With Dave Franco’s The Rental, I was glad I ventured out to see this one on the big screen. In Franco’s directorial debut, The Rental is a chilling and suspenseful vacation film that leads a deadly trail of deception, dishonesty, and danger among its four main characters as they take a vacation in an Air BNB in the mountains of Oregon. One tactic leads to another which had me aching in curiosity of what the outcomes would be for Charlie (played by Dan Stevens), Michelle (played by Alison Brie who is also the director’s wife), Mina (played by Sheila Vand), and Josh (played by Jeremy Allen White).
The plot of the film is that the two brothers (Charlie and Josh) decide to take their girlfriends (Michelle and Mina) on a weekend getaway to celebrate work success. At first, some seem skeptical, but figure it is in a house with privacy and that it cannot be that bad (unfortunately it is the opposite). Once they all settle in on the first day, all of them get into hard drugs, drinking and partying. Some decide to call it a night early and go to sleep, but others keep the party going and start engaging in mischievous activities believing they will not get caught. However, they are already in the spotlight due to hidden cameras around the house. Two of the guests start to realize their risqué behavior was probably recorded and worry that they could face all kinds of life-threatening conflicts if the video is out there. The key is that the man behind the cameras can see everything. Soon the house becomes more dangerous, as he sees everything and creates tension via the technology that he uses to challenge the behaviors of his guests.
The tension in the film was intense as were the emotions of the characters as they try to maintain their safety and fight for their lives, but also somehow find the footage of the lewd behavior that was recorded of them. The film reminded me of Vacancy (2007). I felt the premise was similar, but this was a film that has a setting which is much less predictable. Both films ask the same question, i.e. how can the protagonists fight for their lives when the antagonist can see all they do technologically? The Rental takes those tense elements many levels up, given the cameras are wireless and hidden in many places that people would not think about.
The Rental may well have been one of the best movies I have experienced with shock and horror during these hard times. I love films with jump scares as well as people chasing and trying to fight others. The Rental spoke to me throughout its ninety minutes. It had me on edge, and while it was somewhat predictable in some moments, in others twists of shock are thrown in. Franco has done an excellent job with the shock value in his directorial debut. Three and a half stars.