Dave Franco’s directorial debut, The Rental is a mildly entertaining, but overall underwhelming feature. It’s adequately made, but never tries anything new. There isn’t anything in this film that hasn’t been done in other, far superior slow-burn thrillers.
Basic Synopsis: A pair of couples rent an Airbnb beach house for a fun and relaxing weekend vacation, which turns out to be neither fun or relaxing as they come to believe that the property’s caretaker is spying on them.
First Things First: The Rental’s cast is easily its strongest quality. Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Dan Stevens, and Jeremy Allen White were able to keep me mostly engaged throughout the movie’s slower first half, and sold as much tension as the story allowed in the second. Toby Huss makes an admirable effort with the short amount of screen time he has as well. I’d say that Stevens is the best of the bunch as his character is far and away the most fleshed out. That’s not saying much though, as The Rental never really gives you any strong reason to like the main characters or care about their plight.
Second Things Second: Normally I prefer slow burn thrillers and horrors to have short runtimes, but The Rental is one of the very few exceptions. It’s not even an hour and a half, and the action feels rushed and uneven when paired with the extra long period of foreboding beforehand. Another 10-20 minutes could’ve worked wonders with building up the characters and getting me into their headspace, thus making the final act far more effective and memorable.
My Biggest Complaint: I can understand a director not trying to do anything too brazen with their first movie, but The Rental just feels way too safe. There was a brief moment where I thought that it was going to heavily focus on the mistrust and paranoia of its main quartet – which admittedly isn’t anything new either – but it quickly chickens out and takes a much more cliched, lackluster path instead. It’s truly unfortunate because the cast would likely have been more than up to the challenge, and the film probably would’ve been more memorable because of it.
Favorite Line: “A little bit.”
Does The Dog Survive? (light spoilers): The Rental keeps you in suspense with the fate of Reggie the dog for a while, but by the end of the film he is unharmed.
Final Thoughts: Even though the movie is fairly formulaic, I do believe that The Rental had the potential to be a solid horror experience, and that Dave Franco has the potential to make a good, or even great horror film. There are breadcrumbs of interesting ideas here and there, and it has a significant level of ambience and style to it, but the positives are mostly outweighed by the movie’s weaker elements. If Franco learns from the missteps of his first effort, and gets another equally talented group of actors, I bet that his second flick would be a worthwhile watch.