With the psychological thriller THE RENTAL – DEATH IN THE BEACH HOUSE Actor Dave Franco celebrates his debut as a film director. Many interesting elements combine to create a solid suspense film that unfortunately has a lot of potential. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: The Rental (USA 2020)
The plot summary
A lonely beach villa with a killer view. This is exactly how the two couples Charlie and Michelle (Dan Stevens and Alison Brie) and Mina (Sheila Vand) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White) imagined their weekend trip to the rugged coast of Oregon. But upon arrival there is an argument with the xenophobic landlord Taylor (Toby Huss) and after a night of partying in the luxurious property, tensions arise between the friends. The supposed dream house also seems to hold some dark secrets. For example, what’s the deal with the mysterious door that is secured by a combination lock and doesn’t open at all? Paranoia and a terrible suspicion slowly grow within them: Are they not as alone as they thought?
If actors do it at some point in their careers behind When the camera turns away, they often use their opportunity to be responsible for the course and staging of a story to break with their own image. Ryan Gosling, who was mostly perceived as a pretty boy and sex symbol at the time, self-confidently followed in the footsteps of cinema provocateur Nicolas Winding Refn with his debut directorial film “Lost River”, with whom he had previously filmed “Drive” and “Only God Forgives”. had. Angelina Jolie was also for a long time the Hollywood beauty who appeared as a tough fighter in many of her films. As a filmmaker, she devoted herself to complex historical issues (“In the Land of Blood and Honey”) and destinies (“Unbroken”) in order to tell the stories that are close to her heart. And last but not least, it was like a liberation for Ben Affleck, who was sometimes criticized as an actor in shallow jokes such as “Help, I have a date”, “Love with Risk – Gigli” or “He’s just not that into you”, when he joined in 2007 “Gone Baby Gone” presented his first of four solid to very strong thriller directorial works to date. A majority of the films on Dave Franco’s CV are of a comic nature. In addition to “Bad Neighbors”, “21 Jump Street” or “The Disaster Artist” – to name just a few – material like Barry Jenkins’ racism drama “Beale Street” is the big exception. Franco’s debut work as a feature film director now fills another void and for the first time associates Franco’s name with hard genre cinema. He seems to have seen a lot of it in advance, but only given limited thought to how the well-known tropes could be creatively varied. All too often, his “The Rental – Death in the Beach House” gets stuck in the rudiments of its shining potential.
Mina and Josh (Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White) go on vacation with Michelle and Charlie (Alison Brie and Dan Stevens).
“The Rental” begins with equal parts exhausting and promising. The four-person constellation of characters has its charm: two couples who are friends are on vacation together. And although the lovers’ constellations are clearly defined from the outset, you immediately notice that the (a bit to Friendly) sparks fly because Charlie loves his Michelle but has a successful, very close professional partnership with Mina, which in turn irritates Mina’s partner Josh from time to time. On the one hand, it is all too easy to see from this experimental setup what the events in “The Rental” will lead to. On the other hand, this obvious oddity is brought up early in the film when Michelle and Josh, both friends themselves, take a walk together and discuss whether they should actually be jealous of their respective partners – and they both say no. But although any skepticism would supposedly have to be removed from the room, further unspoken fears and premonitions cause tensions among the friends, which would have attracted even more public interest if Dave Franco, who was also responsible for the script (together with ” You’re Next” writer Joe Swanberg) put a little more effort into the figure drawing. What is missing are any approaches to everyday interaction; Within the couple but also the entire friend constellation. Instead, in “The Rental” your nerves are so frayed from the start that in order to identify and empathize, you have to remember the few moments in which you weren’t viewed skeptically, scolded or deceived. And since there are hardly any scenes like this, you can’t help but see Charlie, Michelle, Mina and Josh as pretty annoying people right from the start.
“What is missing are any approaches to everyday interaction; Within the couple but also the entire friend constellation. Instead, in “The Rental” your nerves are on edge right from the start.”
Nevertheless, the overall solid, but also rather one-sided, hysterical cast benefits from the fact that the events in “The Rental” escalate quickly anyway, so the strong tension between the friends very quickly sets the tone. Dave Franco, who is visibly interested in the horror genre (there are various cross-references to relevant classics such as “Halloween”), does a good job of temporarily raising doubts about the nature of the impending escalation. Are the holidaymakers being spied on by a pervert? Does the holiday home owner who makes racist comments have other bad intentions? Or are the young adults even having their own strange relationship constellation blow up in their faces? Franco deliberately spreads assumptions in all directions, on the one hand he brings up long-dead genre clichés, which at other times he gallantly avoids or even turns inside out. For example, it is extremely amusing how Dave uses the motif of the pet, which is initially nervous and then disappears, to stir up fears in his audience based solely on supposed premonitions. And the fact that it hasn’t really been clear for a long time how many characters we’re actually dealing with in “The Rental” allows speculation in several directions: Are we dealing with a classic slasher here? a relationship drama or even something completely different?
On the run from the invisible threat…
However, it takes a while for Dave Franco to respond. And even though “The Rental” doesn’t even last 90 minutes, it fails to fill the journey to the destination with life throughout. All too often Franco and his cameraman Christian Sprenger seem to be (“Glow”) It’s hard to believe that the same old shots of the undoubtedly nice-looking holiday home with the help of lots and lots of artificial fog were enough to provide an atmospheric layer to the plot, which at times was very stagnant. But since some developments within the story can be counted from the beginning, it would have taken more than the main actors filmed from a voyeur’s perspective to repeatedly indicate that they are constantly under observation during their vacation. In the end, however, those responsible didn’t seem to want to decide which path they should follow to the end. And so “The Rental” develops into equal parts “I know what you did last summer” homage and a very late contribution to 80s slasher history – only this time not with teenagers at the center of what is happening, but with adult people who have no fewer problems than their much younger genre predecessors.
“In the end, those responsible don’t seem to really want to decide which path they want to follow to the end. And so “The Rental” evolves into equal parts “I Know What You Did Last Summer” homage and a very belated entry into ’80s slasher history.”
It’s clear: “The Rental” is always at its best when it comes along with a sudden change of direction every now and then that you wouldn’t have expected. And so you get the feeling that Dave Franco wanted to fulfill and subvert the expectations of a genre-savvy audience in equal measure with his debut as a director, without descending directly into parody or satire. In fact, he succeeded in all of this to a certain extent. While “The Rental” is boring in some moments due to its predictability, the middle part in particular, which reveals many development possibilities, keeps you entertained. And the explanation of the whole thing is pleasantly cynical, even in killer cinema. The film is not a big hit, but as the first feature film it is a presentable achievement.
Conclusion: As an introduction to directing, Dave Franco has presented a solid horror thriller for which just as much potential was exploited as it remained unused.
“The Rental – Death in the Beach House” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc from May 14th. ZDF will also show it as a free TV premiere on May 10th at 10:15 p.m.