Sharp horror-thriller about human behavior and technology.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Rental is a horror-thriller about two couples who rent a vacation house for the weekend, resulting in illicit sex, drug use, illegal surveillance, and murder. Violence doesn't come into play until the second half, but there's punching and hitting, whacking with blunt objects, stabbing, smothering, a car crash, and other attacks and/or murders. A cheating couple shares an illicit kiss, plus sex in the shower, which is briefly shown via grainy surveillance footage. The man is behind the woman, and there's no explicit nudity. Language is very strong, with multiple uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters drink to excess and take Ecstasy, waking up with painful hangovers. The movie is actor Dave Franco's directorial debut, and it's a smart, sharp piece of work, highly recommended to mature viewers. Dan Stevens and Alison Brie co-star.
Kind of boring
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Not for Kids and Not Really for Anyone Else Either...
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What's the Story?
In THE RENTAL, Charlie (Dan Stevens) runs a successful tech company with his partner, Mina (Sheila Vand). Mina is dating Charlie's brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White), who has a troubled past but is trying to do better. To celebrate a milestone at work, Charlie and Mina decide to rent a vacation home for the weekend for the three of them, plus Charlie's wife, Michelle (Alison Brie). Trouble comes right away when Mina is turned down for the rental but Charlie is approved, suggesting racism on the part of manager Taylor (Toby Huss). But the foursome try to have a good time anyway by taking some Ecstasy. Michelle goes to bed early, and Josh passes out, leaving Charlie and Mina alone. They unwisely act on a drug-fueled impulse and have sex. In the morning, they agree to forget all about it but are then horrified to discover cameras planted all around the house that certainly captured the act. How can they get out of this mess?
Is It Any Good?
Marking Dave Franco's directorial debut, this sharp, engrossing horror-thriller gets by with no supernatural elements, relying entirely on scarily believable human behavior and intrusive technology. Working from a screenplay co-written by Franco, Joe Swanberg, and Mike Demski, Franco creates tension right away in The Rental with his human tableaus. Even the (sometimes dark) humor is designed to throw things off-balance. The very first shot shows Charlie and Mina leaning together over a computer monitor in such a familiar, comfortable way that we may immediately assume that they're a couple.
Everything in the movie is staged in a way that creates tension and dislocation, from Taylor's underlying racism and his sly way of deflecting it, to Michelle being out-of-step with the other three. Michelle is the only one interested in going on a hike, and she takes Ecstasy alone on Saturday night, becoming a kind of quirky comic relief and also a catalyst for more disaster. Brie and Franco are married in real life, and he's given her a rich role here that plays to her talents. Plus, Franco manages to comment on technology in a way that's subtle and not overbearing. He doesn't go easy on his characters, and he finds an ending that clicks into place with a true shudder. In essence, The Rental is a must-see thriller, both smart and unsettling.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The Rental's violence. How much is shown, and how much is implied? How does sound play a role in the violence? How did it all make you feel?
How is sex depicted? What values are implied? Why does it hurt so much when a partner is cheated on?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies?
Are drugs or alcohol glamorized? Are there consequences for using or drinking? Why does that matter?
What are the pros and cons of secret surveillance? What do we gain, and what do we give up with hidden cameras? What is the movie saying about technology?
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2020
- Cast: Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand
- Director: Dave Franco
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexuality
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Smart, emotional thriller with violence and a creepy cult.
Brilliantly designed thriller weakened by heavy violence.
Bloody home invasion movie is more hype than content.
Unsettling, high-class horror movie is extremely violent.
Horror-thriller is surprising, shocking, timely, and funny.
For kids who love scares
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