Two couples decide to rent a modern cliff side house for a weekend getaway. Charlie (Dan Stevens), who is married to Michelle (Alison Brie), is joined by his work partner, Mina (Sheila Vand), and his brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White), who is dating Mina. However, some of them start to suspect that the rental is being watched...
'The Rental' marks the directorial debut of Dave Franco, and he's roped in some big names to lead the cast including Dan Stevens, who seems to be everywhere right now, and Alison Brie, star of 'Bojack Horseman' and 'GLOW', and also Dave Franco's wife. Tonally, one initially gets the vibe of such modern thrillers as 'The Guest' (also starring Stevens) or even 'Get Out'. Saying that, the feature falls short of their standard, but is diverting enough as far as horrors go.
Stevens brings the dark intensity he's developed a rep for, his loathing towards his brother and attraction to Mina being obvious from the get-go. The dialogue bites as awkward conversations between the friends dominate, and exchanges with the property owner prove suspicious. There's some fun and humour when the couples decide to take some ecstasy together, as well as inevitable romantic drama as the night goes on.
Revelations come to light in between some spooky POV stalker shots. It appears Franco is borrowing from a number of influences, but working at carving his own as well. Events turn increasingly fraught and frightening, and an awful lot happens between acts two and three.
'The Rental' can be quite clichéd, using a variety of familiar tropes, but it's a decent directorial debut and impressively tight, clocking in at under 90 minutes. The biggest disappointment is that it feels like there's a really smart idea in there (which comes to the forefront in its freaky final moments) that could have been teased out more, making for a better film. Moreover, the third act is rushed, dashing haphazardly to the finish line, which is a shame after the skillful development that came before. As a general rule, horrors suffer in their finales, rarely accomplishing the right tone or payoff, either becoming ridiculous or simply anti-climactic. This film fares similarly.
While there's little to be gained from watching it more than once, 'The Rental' is entertaining in its fright factor and one feels positive for Dave Franco's future as a director. Put the film down for a late night watch or second movie in the night kind of watch.
'The Rental' is streaming on Amazon Prime now.