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When I heard that Dave Franco directed an Airbnb-based horror movie, I got all twitterpated! Doesn’t that just sound, like, extra-special-super bad?! What if I also told you that this was the lesser Franco’s directorial debut and that it tries to be culturally “woke” within its first 15 minutes?
“Finally,” I thought, “a chance to harmlessly tee off on something!” Since the pandemic started, most first-run films made available on streaming have been independent, arthouse flicks. You know, “good” movies.
Where is the fun in liking almost everything you see? I am sitting on a tsunami of aggression and angry quips, but nobody is forcing me to watch Doolittle 2: Do Doolittle Doodoo? Then along comes my unexpected savior, Sir Davethous Francovious, with a movie that is generically titled The Rental when it clearly should have been called Scarebnb. All I thought when I excitedly rented The Rental was, “Buckle up, Franco-weenie, this critic is about to slap your film in the face with a big, wet Grumpy Care Bear stare!”
The Rental is fine.
In a year filled with almost as many disappointments as elected officials who are delinquent in their duties, the sheer audacity of The Rental being tolerable is just impossible to describe. Okay? What business does a horror flick that reimagines Jason Voorhies as a tech-savvy, Yelp-conscious, thoroughly-modern-murder-enthusiast have being okay?!
The first few moments are promisingly wretched. Charlie (Dan Stevens) and his wife, Michelle (Alison Brie), plan a weekend getaway with Charlie’s brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White), and Josh’s girlfriend, Mina (Sheila Vand), who is also Charlie’s assistant. The person who runs the rental house, Taylor (Toby Huss), denied Mina’s application but accepted Charlie’s. Because of racism.
For a brief second, The Rental almost goes for some kind of Get Out-esque social relevance. My brain was excitedly rifling through filing cabinets of insults. But before I could process the punny paperwork, the movie settled down into nearly nonoffensive, fairly well-done but totally predictable shenanigans. With enough infidelity and drug use to make it qualified to run for president, The Rental is somewhat effective in ratcheting up the tension and surprisingly restrained. Not even 90 minutes, it doesn’t even overstay its reservation.
Sure, some stuff is stupid. Like, Mina is explicitly called brilliant by all three other major characters and then acts like her IQ test came back “Try again later.” Only Michele is likable, as Charlie is a sleazebag liar and his brother went to prison for beating a dude half to death for unspecified reasons. Franco and cowriter Joe Swanberg mostly just color within the lines of fairly standard slasher/thriller conceits.
Should you rent The Rental? If you long to be mildly titillated, you could do worse. If you were hoping for worse, please join me in my social media campaign suggesting that Dave’s next film be a remake of Roots.
Grade = B-
Other Critical Voices to Consider
- Carla Hay at Culturemix also saw it as well-crafted but “formulaic.”
- Ruben Peralta Rigaud at Cocalecas rightly identifies Franco’s struggles as an actor-turned-director, but came away saying it was a fine way to “kill time.”
- Robert Daniels at Polygon mostly blasts the script, which is a very fair thing to do.