You know the bad feeling you get once in a blue moon with something you watch, that it will just not satisfy the target audience for whatever reason? That’s ultimately the feeling which crept up on my spine during and after The Rental, there was just a lot missing that the trailer and marketing promises to you. A directorial debut for Dave Franco who’s mostly known for acting since he doesn’t even have a short film or TV experience, it’s about two couples (and a dog) who rent an Oregon AirBnb for a weekend to relax, hike, drink and do drugs. Franco clearly has taken notes on his favourite horror movies but he also manages to set the mood right away which lasts for the whole 89 minutes. Sadly that doesn’t extend to the tone that is present, it doesn’t really set out to accomplish anything specific.
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. Film’s main cast Sheila Vand (Mina), Jeremy Allen White (Josh), Alison Brie (Michelle) and Dan Stevens (Charlie) have very believable chemistry together from the get go and all of them are in desperate need for something more challenging that what they’re given here. White especially gets going when the action begins but you do wish 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 fourth have the horror elements, however it must be said that you probably expected it to go the psychological route but it’s way more slasher influenced than anything. It’s a bit conflicting because it’s the best part of the movie but it’s also something that makes the first half pointless and mimics the classic slashers. I was left with a sour taste since the film is tastefully directed, shot nicely and it has a fitting score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans which compliments the gloomy mood but the flat story and sets as well as the lack of use of technology aspects of it dissatisfy. To make that point even more, the closing credits are the most terrifying part.
Smileys: Score, Jeremy Allen White
Frowneys: Tone, set decoration, originality
So this year I’ve seen Dan Stevens in ‘The Call Of The Wild’, ‘Eurovision’ and this. Maybe Dan, next year, change your name to Steven Dans for a new beginning and maybe you’ll get better films. Also obviously check out doesthedogdie.com if that concerns you.