Back in 2002 when James Franco’s career was really starting to take off as a result of Spider-Man; his younger brother, Dave Franco, was 17 years old. His career hadn’t even begun yet, but over time, he would blossom into what I like to call “The Better Franco” — for more reasons than one. But it seems as if acting might not be his only passion, as Dave just recently headed up the horror film “The Rental,” which he directed, produced and co-wrote. I hope he keeps at it.
Naturally, it all starts with a good cast. Jeremy Allen White has been doing great work on the US adaptation of Shameless (regardless of its fluctuating quality), and it is assuring to see him get a break here alongside of Dan Stevens: another recent great. Add another good turn from Alison Brie into the mix and Sheila Vand and you have yourself a formidable foursome of actors to help propel your directorial debut. Toby Huss as the sassy property booker is just extra.
Getting to the titular rental in eight minutes flat is a good sign. It also helps that everyone has great chemistry with one another individually, and gets plenty of time to interact. As the narrative twists and turns we get to go on the ride with an intimate cast together. Franco’s use of a night and day cycle to represent various facets of the group’s psyche is also a smart move that keeps it grounded and relatable.
The Rental has great pacing throughout, and the script only ever borders on cringe without going too far into it. Relationship dramas always have that air about it, but the aforementioned tightness of the script moves us from scene to scene before we’re able to dwell on it too much. There’s very little in the way of cheap jump scares, which modern horror flicks are relying on less and less these days. By the time things really hit the fan near the finale the events teeter on contrived, but before any that happens, it’s a thrilling ride.
We’ve seen a renaissance of lower budget horror these past few years, but Blumhouse isn’t the only one who has a monopoly on it. As everyone is locked inside and looking for entertainment, The Rental is a flick that deserved to go to theatres but works just as well at home. Don’t expect to be blown away, but you’ll come away entertained.