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Review: Dave Franco’s ‘The Rental’ Takes a Trip in the House of Horror

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The Rental Movie

For Dave Franco’s directorial debut, he made the wise choice to make it horror. It’s a genre that offers a lot of flexibility in the details, as long as the film works. Co-written by Franco and Joe Swanberg (V/H/S, Drinking Buddies), The Rental takes some creative chances that mark Franco as a curious new talent to watch for. 

The Rental follows Charlie (Dan Stevens, The Guest, Apostle) and his wife Michelle (Alison Brie, Community, Glow), who pair up with Charlie’s brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White, Shameless), and Josh’s girlfriend/Charlie’s business partner, Mina (Sheila Vand, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) to rent a seemingly perfect house for a weekend getaway. But what begins as a festive weekend for the four close friends turns into something far more sinister as secrets they’ve kept from each other are exposed and paranoia grows that they may not be alone.

Visually, The Rental has that muted it’s-fall-at-the-beach aesthetic that hovers a sense of dread over the proceedings. This isn’t a bright, happy, sunny season of fun and adventure, it’s a dreary sense of cold that settles in, even in a warmly lit room. It sets a moody tone that carries throughout the film.

Franco — no stranger to working in front of the camera — pushes the actors by limiting the shot reverse shot framing, opting instead to hold the camera on one character while the dialogue happens around them. The camera doesn’t jump around during group conversations, it often works its way through the room, person by person, while the actors take their time to react to what’s being said. It creates a sense of intimacy that allows you to click in to the characters a bit more, but it also draws attention to the sometimes clunky script. 

Though the script isn’t all that complex, it’s Alison Brie as Michelle who really sells it. Franco — who is married to Brie — knows the talent he’s working with here. Brie’s sincerity and deeply likable nature (and her role as the voice of reason) makes Michelle the only character you really care about. When she ducks out of the first night of partying and is left to roll on her own the next day, there’s something so subtle about her performance that beautifully communicates her hurt and frustration while still keeping a smiling face. 

As far as “house rental” horror goes, The Rental certainly brings up some worst case scenarios. Hidden cameras and a body count combine to create what must be a really bad trip for poor Michelle. While the dialogue makes a very strong attempt to seem organic, the weight of the situation is real enough that you can connect to the reactions of each character. The script sounds awkward, but you can still get why it works.

Though the plot meanders in one direction for quite some time, things really take off when it shifts gears. I’m trying really hard to avoid spoilers here, but The Rental essentially sets itself up as one thing before flipping to another. It’s a surprise slasher that is never fully explained, which is where the horror genre can be very forgiving; in the genre, things often don’t require explanation in order for them to work. 

That said, there are other horror films that have done a similar formula with better execution, but there’s something about the set up that makes The Rental work. We’re dedicated to one thing for so long that the end result feels almost inconsequential, but I actually don’t mind it. It’s a snapshot. It does what few films dare to do — it toys with commitment and dangles questions that aren’t answered. Now, this could certainly be considered a bad thing — and perhaps it is — but in the horror genre, it’s forgivable. We’re allowed to be left with questions. We’re allowed to not get answers. 

When the shift comes, Franco leans in to the horror elements to make the climax really take off. It can be surprisingly brutal. It’s hard to say if Franco is a diehard fan of the genre, or if he just wanted to try something different for his directorial debut. He’s checked in to the vast house of horror, but it may just be a short stay. Either way, he’s found his footing as a director with a horror film that looks great and stands strong above many other genre offerings. 

The Rental is available in select drive-ins, theatres, and On Demand on July 24th. You can check out the trailer and poster below. 

 

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World War II Werewolf Film ‘Operation Blood Hunt’ is “Predator Meets The Dirty Dozen”

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Operation

Well if that isn’t one hell of a cool description for a werewolf movie. Operation Blood Hunt is being described by THR as “Predator meets The Dirty Dozen meets Underworld“. Not a bad lineup of comparisons. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars in the WWII violent picture.

Director, Louis Mandylor takes the reigns in this werewolf film set during the turbulent times of WWII.

The Hollywood Reporter breaks down the movie like this:

Operation Blood Hunt follows prolific expert of the occult and whiskey, The Reverend, who accompanies a ragtag group of military rejects to a remote South Pacific Island to investigate the disappearance of Marine units stationed there in 1944, said to be at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. Upon speaking with the island’s inhabitants, the group soon discovers the Marines had actually been massacred by a group of Lycanthropes, known to most as Werewolves.

Operation Blood Hunt is also focusing on bringing practical effects to the werewolf film. That’s right, y’all. These are full-on mechanical puppets and not more crappy CG drivel.

We will be sure to get you a release date for this one as soon as it becomes available.

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‘The Last of Us’ Final Trailer Unveils the Clickers and the Series’ Broken Heart

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Last

The Last of Us drops one of its best trailers yet. The latest trailer digs into the heart of the game-turned-series. It also gives us our first real look at some very pissed-off Clickers. Director, Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) brings his trademark dower-facing work to Naughty Dog’s smash hit game. We are also in love with Bella Ramsey pantomiming a Clicker infection after showing that she survived a bite.

The trailer also has a great version of A-Ha’s Take on Me. For those of you who played the game, you will recall tha this was a very special song that Ellie played for Dina on the acoustic guitar that she acquired from Joel.

The synopsis for The Last of Us goes like this:

Joel, a grizzled survivor of a dangerous post-pandemic world, who has slowly lost his sense of morality after the loss of his daughter, and Ellie, a young girl with her own struggle to find real human connection, are forced together and must travel across the U.S. in search of a feint hope for the future of humanity.

The Last of Us arrives on HBO Max beginning January 15.

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Netflix Cancels ‘The Midnight Club’ – Director, Mike Flanagan Shares What Would Have Happened in Season Two

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Flanagan

Mike Flanagan has given us some serious greats as of late. From The Haunting of Hill House to Midnight Mass, Flanagan is creating incredible works. Sadly, Flanagan’s pitch black, The Midnight Club has been canceled after only one season. Christopher Pike’s The Midnight Club book wasn’t the only book that Flanagan was pulling from. Instead, Flanagan was combines highlights from across Pike’s body of work.

Flanagan has taken to Tumblr to share the direction that season 2 would have headed. He also explains several mysteries that were left open-ended. He also explains who would have lived and who was going to die. Sadly, Amesh would have died bravely very early on in season 2.

Perhaps saddest of all is the death of Ilonka. The way Flanagan planned her death was very poetic.

Midnight Club fans need to look through it for themselves there are details about Heather Langenkamp’s character.

Overall, it sounds like Flanagan’s Midnight Club season 2 would have been very dark and dower. But like all of the director’s works he finds beauty within those dark moments.

In other great Flanagan news, he has partnered with Amazon Prime to bring us even more goodies along with Intrepid Pictures.

For Flanagan’s full season two details for The Midnight Club head OVER HERE.

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