July 23, 2020

GENRE | Dave Franco Stays the Weekend – 'The Rental'

"I know how to keep a secret."
Jeremy Allen White Dave Franco | The Rental
IFC Films / Black Bear Pictures
Actor Dave Franco makes his debut behind the camera as co-writer and director of the standard but effective vacation horror drama The Rental. Competently directed, the film uses single-location slasher genre conventions to express its relationship themes of paranoia and infidelity.

Starring Dan Stevens, Franco's real-life wife Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White as a pair of couples vacationing in an Airbnb rental house for the weekend somewhere on the ominous shores of the Oregon coast, their stay quickly turns sinister when they suspect their creepy host (Toby Huss) of spying on them (very Hitchcockian). Aside from a couple very obviously dumb (if expected) decisions in the moment, our characters make more or less logical choices in order to move the drama forward.

From the pacing and camera movements to the character archetypes, everything is deliberately played out with a cold efficiency. Franco clearly took the time to think and flesh out every turn of his first film. However, it lacks a certain ambition to it by never going beyond the slightest of turns or trying to sublimate our expectations. Interactions and setups unfold with a familiar precision as the characters' troubles escalate at a steady rate.

Co-written by prolific mumblecore filmmaker Joe Swanberg alongside Franco, The Rental reads like a safe first directorial effort. Franco's sleek direction, if nothing else, proves his solid chops as an economical manager of actors and production. More drama than horror, the film lacks pretension and has more to say about relationships than anything else through its execution of character tension leading to suspense. It wisely resists the urge to show off.

The Rental is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand.

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