What’s more terrifying than spotting coronavirus on your next AirBnB is spotting a camera in the shower. Dave Franco takes up this real horror on his directorial debut The rent, an entertaining, if lighter, horror thriller about two couples renting a nice house for the weekend only to find something worse than bed bugs.
Aesthetically clear and sometimes beautiful The rent may take yourself too seriously, but in a satisfactorily incisive 88 minutes it delivers a gripping, even sexy, story that doesn’t necessarily go in the direction you’d expect. Type of.
After Dan Stevens and Sheila Vand have a tryst in the shower – a problem as they spend the weekend with their significant other, played by Alison Brie and Jeremy Allen White. After realizing that they may have been videotaped, they discuss their best course of action – as confronting the perpetrator would reveal their infidelity.
Of course, that’s not the biggest problem.
Aside from the graphics, the performers are aces. Although The rent is a horror film, a large part of its first two acts revolves around the interaction of the four main roles (with Toby Huss also appearing for a few minutes). While it doesn’t always land its dramatic blows – as the movie goes on, some of the decisions the characters make begin to bend common sense – Franco does a good job setting the stage and developing four flawed but personable characters . Given the movie’s running time, Franco and co-writer Joe Swanberg deserve praise for what they did in such a sleek, pared-back format.
The film loses some of its luster in the final act, which is surprising given that the plot takes a turn for the terrible. Franco’s unexpected (if slightly predictable with hindsight and completely formulaic) pivot could have worked exceptionally well, but without revealing details, the new direction is not entirely satisfactory. It’s not that the movie isn’t as brutal as it could have been. It is so that Franco, clearly trying to capitalize on the fear of staying in someone else’s house and connecting to real-life incidents where visitors have spotted cameras, could have delivered something far more terrifying if he hadn’t taken the stereotypical route would have gone. I’m not someone who usually prefers a more nuanced, less gory horror movie, but if there’s one who deserves such treatment, this is it The rent. Unfortunately, the film cannot do anything extraordinary as it is.
The rent is worth seeing. With such a short run time, strong writing, and a great cast, it has too much to offer to be missed. Even so, a better third act would have earned a stronger evaluation of the tenant.
Rating by Erik Samdahl, unless otherwise stated.