Amazon UK film review: The Rental
James R | On 22, Jan 2021
Director: Dave Franco
Cast: Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Jeremy Allen White, Toby Huss, Sheila Vand
Watch The Rental online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Is there anything that Dave Franco can’t do? The actor has charmed his way through Scrubs, 21 Jump Street, The Disaster Artist and Netflix’s Easy with a winning charisma and deceptive versatility. Now, he turns his hand to horror for his directorial debut, The Rental.
Co-written with Easy’s Joe Swanberg, the film whisks us away to a cabin in the woods – or, as we call them now, Airbnb rentals. The holiday home seems like the perfect match for Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michelle (Alison Brie), who head there with Charlie’s business partner, Mina (Sheila Vand), and her boyfriend (and Charlie’s brother), Josh (Jeremy Allen White). A quartet of crossed relationships in an isolated beach house with a hot tub? What could go wrong?
The film is at its best when simply letting the tensions among the group simmer and bubble. Dan Stevens and Sheila Vand are fantastic as the work colleagues who may have chemistry that’s a little too good, while Alison Brie brings a wonderful level-headed yet awkward desperation that’s matched by Jeremy Allen White’s seemingly calm Josh. Stewing in their spiky dynamics, growing suspicions and emerging secrets, Franco’s camera takes us in close – uncomfortably so when we reach the end of the first act – but also knows when to linger back, crafting an increasingly claustrophobic and voyeuristic atmosphere.
That plays into the unsettling presence of Toby Huss (Halt and Catch Fire) as the man renting out the place, who comes with a baggage of prejudice on his shoulder. As we wait for something to go horribly, violently wrong, a lot of The Rental’s strengths stem from its excellent casting, as Huss’ polite exterior triggers all kinds of unspoken warnings, even as we get the feeling that these entitled city types are asking for some kind of comeuppance.
The final act does descend into something more conventional, and it’s almost a shame to see the carefully orchestrated chamber piece segue into a louder, less subtle tune. But while this may not hit the heights of The Cabin in the Woods or You’re Next, there’s tension throughout this nicely directed chiller, one that will make you think twice about booking that holiday home this year – and thrice about taking a shower.
The Rental is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.