Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE RENTAL

Finally, a slow burn horror/thriller film that is decently developed during that down time in the first act. Then, when the shit hits the fan in acts two and three, the shit really, really hits the fan. Some will argue that THE RENTAL is a little too conventional for Dave Franco’s theatrical length directorial debut (he also co-wrote this). I would argue that not only is that okay when the rest of your film is downright entertaining as hell, but it should be completely ignored when you prove that you have a promising eye behind the camera. Dave Franco, he’s honestly not that great of an actor. He’s very limited when in front of the camera, but that is just my opinion of course. However, with this first big-ish feature, kind of like Ben Affleck’s first film, Gone Baby Gone, he shows that maybe he should do what Ben Affleck couldn’t: quit his day job. His future is bright and I hope he takes more roles behind the camera from now on (and none in front of them). Whether that happens remains to be seen but I have a good feeling about it. Granted, there are some flaws in the woodwork, such as the real villain isn’t ‘revealed’ until too late in the feature, all of the characters (except maybe Alison Brie’s and some aspects of Jeremy Allen White’s) are very, very unlikable, and some of the suspense could’ve been slowed down instead of rushed at times. Overall though, the hell of a good time I had with this movie is worth the price of rental (pun intended) alone.

Per IMDB, The Rental stars Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White and is described as: “Two couples rent a vacation home for what should be a celebratory weekend get-away.” That log line is perfect. It teases with the words, ‘what should be’ and just leaves it at that. I need to get into some of the details of the story just a tad more for my review, mainly so I can give my critique acting wise.I promise to still not reveal much. Jeremy Allen White is Dan Steven’s character’s brother in this, he’s considered the “black sheep” of his family, and his girlfriend is someone that Dan Steven’s character closely works with. Any other reveals would ruin everything. Everybody acting wise, does a great job here, especially Dan Stevens, even though that most of the things these characters wind up doing throughout this film make them completely un-sympathetic to the audience, unlikable and they all look really fucking dumb. Two exceptions to my train of thought. First off, the only reason why Alison Brie’s character may come off as unlikable is due to the fact that she makes some really dumb fucking decisions in this movie and isn’t shown doing much else. Her character has a decent personality, but she really isn’t given much of a back story for the audience to invest any likable feelings at all toward her. I have a feeling that a few more scenes of her, a well written background, and an actual narrative arc could’ve made her the only character we sympathize with, which would strengthened the impact of some of the shit that goes down.

Secondly, Jeremy Allen White at least doesn’t play the typical “black sheep of the family” movie trope. He knows he fucks up and he’s actually generally sorry for what he’s done, even though he keeps on keepin’ on fuckin’ up. But with The Rental, you don’t really stay for the likability of the characters or some of the cliched dialogue, you stay for the last hour of pure…shit fan hittin’…madness. And that’s maybe why it could be argued that these characters are supposed to be unlikable, because you can’t wait for the bad shit to keep happening to them. For these clueless people renting this cliff side cabin/home, they keep making the dumbest fucking decisions possible, and with each passing minute you can’t wait for the next fuck up, which is only maybe 1 to 2 minutes after the last. That’s why some of the movies’ payoffs from the slow set ups in the first act are so juicy. You want to, but you just can’t look away from the bloody mayhem that follows. I just wish that the movie had set up the ‘villain’ a tad bit earlier, it felt like his reveal was almost too little too late. Not quite though for me here. Also, while Franco has an eye for the camera, the cinematography in this is excellent the shots are framed perfectly, there were a couple of moments that need more…oomph, shall we say. More tension that leaded into more pay off jump scares. I know his intentions were pure in that the movie is supposed to be more traumatic and creepy than it is a loud, big noise, unearned jump scares galore, teenage bullshit horror film, but some of the “gotcha!” pay offs needed just a tad bit more build up and they would’ve been masterful. However, for the first time in a long time, The Rental is a rental I’d rent more than once.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HORSE GIRL (Netflix)

Only a month and a half into 2020 and we already have a contender for strangest film of the year, Netflix’s new film, HORSE GIRL. Not only strange, but weird, boring and didn’t really do much for me. I felt like I ‘got’ the film, especially one very important blink and you’ll miss it clue that ties the very beginning and very end of the film together, it’s just that the subject matter it presented was only surface level. The whole film was trying too hard to be ambiguous while asking the question: is this individual suffering from an extreme case of several mental illnesses or is all this crazy shit she is saying is happening to her and what the audience sees happening to her, really reality? Off the top of my head, I can list about ten to twenty films in the same genre that do its themes more justice than this one does. The two things that prevent this film from being one giant clusterfuck is some of the visuals and Alison Brie’s fantastic performance. However, this just may be my opinion of it. If you like really ambiguous weird slow burn films such as It Comes At Night or The Witch or Bug, films that I really don’t care for, you might get something out of it. I have a feeling it is going to fall back in Netflix obscurity, never to be seen on recommendations, only found if specifically looking for it in the streaming platforms search engine.

The film starts out interestingly enough. Alison Brie stars as Sarah, a shy and socially awkward woman who works in an arts and crafts store, that cares deeply for a horse that she rode when she was younger, that is scared of losing her mind like her grandmother had and then her mother, the latter of which killed herself. She has minor sleepwalking problems, and life seems to maybe finally turn around for her when she meets her roommate’s boyfriend’s roommate, as they hit it off and have a lot in common. But after that meeting, strange shit starts to happen, her sleep walking gets much, much worse, and she has very lucid dreams that start to blend with her reality. Is this all really happening to her, or is she slowly losing her mind as her mom and grandmother once did. The film’s first problem is that it doesn’t play up on the is she delusional or is she not delusional angle. There are too many context clues in the film to give any audience member paying even the most minimum attention to the film that they could an answer to what is really going on. And then there is the blink and you’ll miss it giant clue at the end that makes you wonder why this story even needed to be told.

Films about mental illness can be very informative learning experiences mixed with some sort of entertainment value to keep the audiences interest. Joker failed with that concept, and so does this film. Her mental state, issues, and complexities are only skin deep and only mildly talked about. It doesn’t deep dive at all into the problems at hand. Instead the movie, especially in the last 30 minutes, just tries to be artsy fartsy with a bunch of images that are meant to take the viewer on a wild journey into her head that is supposed bring up important discussions but only manage to illicit yawns. I found myself nodding off several times. The film is well acted, as Alison Brie’s performance is the best she’s ever done, completely shedding that goofy, cute, aw shucks sweetness you’ve seen from her on Community and Glow, and going for something more than just one dimensional. It was also nice to see Debbie Ryan play it straight as Brie’s roommate, and there are also very minor parts from Molly Shannon and Paul Reiser, who are good with how little they are given (Reiser is in the film maybe 3 minutes out of the 1 hr 43 minute run time). Unfortunately Brie is also to blame for the mediocrity of the movie, as she co-wrote the film with director Jeff Baena, who’s other writing/directing credits such as I Heart Huckabees and Life After Beth, I am not too fond of in the first place.

So in the end, what do I know really? I’m just giving you my review of what I thought, and I was bored and ultimately just said “meh” once the credits started rolling. It was a film that was supposed to make you think and have conversations about important issues but instead made me yawn half a dozen times, my eyes drooped and I immediately wanted to forget about the film once it was over. But you could be one of those people that likes movies like this. If any of what I described to you peaks your interest, I more than welcome you to check it out and get your own opinion of it. I just didn’t care for it at all. But if this sounds like it would be a headache to get through for you, and you have my particular film taste, then trust me, stay far away. What really strikes me as odd is that Brie wrote this film because of her real grandmother’s own mental illness. Surely there was a better film in the mind of her and that director somewhere. Was this just her own catharsis to deal with it all? I don’t know, and in the end, I don’t care. There are other, better films on Netflix to enjoy. Just like its play on time in the film, Horse Girl will ultimately be lost in time and maybe even its digital footprint from the streaming platform one day to save space for something else. It really is that forgettable.