REview: The Rental (2020) | A Great Looking Movie That Doesn’t Quite Know What It Wants To Be

Dave Franco’s – the brother of James – feature debut is an auspicious horror movie (Kinda, as far as the horror is concerned? I’ll go into that a bit deeper in a moment) called The Rental.

What’s so impressive about his movie is how well it’s shot. It has a distinct visual sense as well as a grasp of timing, mood and rhythm often missing from the work of more experienced directors.

And I understand that movies are more than any one person, though just as a director gets the bulk of the credit if the movie fails, they deserve the kudos if it succeeds.

As I said, Franco feels very confident and self-assured behind the camera and has the right people doing things like cinematography, production design, and so on.

The problem – and it’s a big one – is that the movie lacks narrative focus in the sense that it starts as Shallow Grave as Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White) who’re brothers who decide to take their ladies, Michelle (Alison Brie) and Mina (Sheila Vand) for a mini vacation by renting a house on the California coast.

The movie invests the bulk of it’s running time with the couples, which is fine till the third act, when a serial killer makes himself known.

Till that point The Rental was a thriller which is why it’s so jarring when it decides to become a slasher/horror movie instead.

This was a really odd decision (an adjective I use a lot in my video review) because the movie didn’t need it though what’s worse is that for some reason Franco chooses to not show the face of the killer which is strange because there’re only four main and one minor character (who’s killed) IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE!

I’m also reasonably certain it’s not John Carpenter’s Halloween – since it the killer isn’t any of the characters we’ve already seen we’re not going to recognize them, so why hide their face?

I was getting the feeling that maybe the director was trying to make some sort of statement – like maybe the killer could be anyone, including the viewer? – but that doesn’t quite jibe.

Then there’s the modus operandi of the killer. Apparently he rents houses or apartments, copies the keys, puts cameras all over, then at his leisure kills the occupants.

This sounds like a REALLY expensive way to do things – never mind risky because he has to return to remove the electronic devices he’s planted (I get the feeling that it’s the sort of thing Elon Musk would do to unwind.

Despite the problems with the movie’s structural issues, I actually enjoyed it. As I said, it’s particularly well done despite the narrative weakness.

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