CERT: 15 / PLATFORMS: ITUNES, GOOGLE PLAY, AMAZON PRIME, VUDU (USA) & IN SELECT CINEMAS (USA) / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (USA)
It is maybe to be expected that a whole generation of filmmakers that grew up with a particular set of movies at their disposal may well end up reviving that genre. And it looks like the slasher film is slowly but surely making a comeback with the likes of Haunt, Netflix’s Slasher series and the recent 2018 Halloween and its forthcoming sequels. Most of the time, the tropes of this (or for that matter any) genre are well worn and many try to shake up the formula where they can but in actor Dave Franco’s directorial debut The Rental, we see an approach that is highly satisfying and an enjoyable start in what could be a fun career in horror.
The film sees Charlie (Dan Stevens) and his girlfriend Michelle (Alison Brie), alongside Charlie’s brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White) and his girlfriend Mila (Sheila Vand) rent a picturesque clifftop home for a weekend getaway. Though things start off a touch bumpy and only escalate further, as all signs point to the frightening realisation that this is not going to be the fun break they envisioned.
Franco and Joe Swanberg’s screenplay is a beautifully shot (making great use of the superb setting in Christian Sprenger’s atmospheric cinematography) Vacancy-like voyeurism thriller which drips into a tech-savvy slasher, and Franco’s direction allows much of the drama to initially stem from real life tensions and friction among friends, as party night gone wrong hijinks ensue. Stevens, Vand, Brie and White are equally as good as each other and really the chaos begins before the central premise comes fully into play, with Toby Huss’ racially-motivated property owner Taylor and some tense relationship/trust issues surfacing among this confined group. Then, once things kick into gear properly, The Rental proves to be very confident in its choices.
Many things play out as the genre rulebook dictates, but the key to Franco’s success, is that he allows it to happen, keeping the story simple and not needlessly buggering about with audacious shenanigans that defy, distract or destroy. Then, refreshingly, he refutes select rules in a finale that knows less is far far more and one that some viewers may ironically be frustrated by but which this writer loved most, and it reminds to some degree of Adam Mason’s chilling Hangman, in its lingering statement. It is this ability to know when to hold back, which makes all the difference and works very well indeed, toying with that universal idea of being watched but also not knowing who anyone really is. A rental worth purchasing!