Before ‘The Iron Claw,’ Jeremy Allen White Starred in This Horror Movie

Before ‘The Iron Claw,’ Jeremy Allen White Starred in This Horror Movie

Movies


The Big Picture

  • The Rental is a 2020 horror film that explores the concept of “AirBnB horror” and the risks of staying in a stranger’s home.
  • Jeremy Allen White delivers an explosive performance as Josh, a character who struggles with self-esteem and ends up making questionable decisions.
  • The film follows in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock by building tension and suspense through the possibility of horror, rather than explicit violence or supernatural elements.


The Von Erich family biopic The Iron Claw is currently receiving praise as a knockout film — pun intended! This is in no small part due to the exceptional acting talent involved, including Zac Efron, Harris Dickinson, and, of course, Jeremy Allen White. Many will have first watched White as Lip in the U.S. remake of the British series Shameless, with others discovering his stellar talent more recently in Hulu’s The Bear. In 2020, however, White appeared in a tense horror movie that was sadly underappreciated due to its release during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rental premiered at the Vineland Drive-In in California and was later released on digital and streaming. The film is a horror of the most contemporary subgenre, “AirBnB horror,” and showcases Jeremy Allen White as yet another brother caught in a fight with his family, just in a very different way!

White told LRM about the scary baggage of rental homes; “If I had to stay in a place, I guess it would be a hotel, historically. Maybe for some reasons, maybe, there’s some underlying fears and I always felt safer in a hotel.” Before Barbarian explored the literal depths of the AirBnB horror setting, Dave Franco‘s feature directorial debut The Rental did it first; keeping the horror at a predominantly social level as opposed to violent or supernatural. The film stars Dan Stevens as Charlie, the brother of White’s Josh, who, along with their respective partners, rent a house in the rural Pacific Northwest for a couples’ retreat. But things soon get dark for the four unsuspecting holidaymakers.

The Rental

Two couples rent a vacation home for what should be a celebratory weekend get-away.

Release Date
July 23, 2020

Runtime
89

Main Genre
Horror

Tagline
Secluded getaway. Killer views.


What Is ‘The Rental’ About?

Dave Franco told Collider that the idea for The Rental was “inspired by my own paranoia about the concept of home sharing.” He added, “We trust staying in the home of a stranger simply because of a few positive reviews online. In reality, while we were filming the movie there were new articles coming out every week about homeowners getting cameras in their place. […] We are all aware of the risks of staying in a stranger’s home, but we never think anything bad will actually happen to us.”

Related

‘The Iron Claw’ Makes a Mistake by Not Including All the Von Erich Brothers

Writer-director Sean Durkin purposely left out one Von Erich brother.

This film begs for an unsuspecting audience, and so, without spoiling too much, the story begins to unfold with the introduction of Jeremy Allen White’s Josh, who, despite the house listing’s “no pets” rule, insists on sneaking his French Bulldog (Instagram’s Chunk) onto the property. Franco’s real-life wife Alison Brie (Glow, Community) plays Charlie’s wife, Michelle, while Sheila Vand plays Josh’s girlfriend Mina who also happens to be Charlie’s business partner. Mina, being of Middle Eastern descent, is struck by the strange property owner Taylor (Toby Huss) whose possible bigotry towards her eats away at her as the tone of the film suggests trouble is on the horizon. The four soon feel uneasy with Taylor’s nearby lurking, feeling they’ve made an enemy of their host.

Jeremy Allen White Shines as the Explosive Josh in ‘The Rental’

Jeremy Allen White as Josh in The Rental
Image Via IFC Films

Although the movie is set up from the point of view of Charlie at the beginning, his actions soon catalyze the horror of the plot, making him more of an active protagonist than a hero. Michelle could arguably be seen as the film’s hero after that, due to her more justifiable actions and honorable personality. However, this four-hander just as easily lends itself to being read as Josh’s story. Jeremy Allen White said of the script:

“When I read it, I was just rooting for Josh, I guess, the whole time. I just, I really saw this guy that really wanted to be better. He’s dating this woman who I think is way out of his league. She’s just beautiful and intelligent. And, I think he’s got some self-esteem issues probably because of his older brother. And then he goes on this trip with them and I feel like he’s getting a little bit beat down. I think I was kind of attracted to this kind of like tragic character who’s trying to get better. But of course, it doesn’t work out his way.”

In fact, as with traditional protagonists and tragic figures, it’s their actions that cause their downfall. In The Rental, each character claims a substantial level of responsibility for their questionable decisions, making their situations go from bad to worse. As White told Film Inquiry, “I’m drawn to the kind of characters that tend to be a little bit explosive. I feel like it’s a kind of healthy way to get that stuff out of me. So it doesn’t have to come up in my day-to-day life. I think that was something that was interesting about Josh.” This character-driven horror is fueled by the internal struggles of these four characters and their intertwining relationships. All external actions in the film stem from this, making for not only a great story but a more interesting challenge for the actors and their actor-turned-director. In short, The Rental gave us a contemporary horror in tune with the style of the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock.

‘The Rental’ Is a Modern Hitchcockian Thriller

Hitchcock once said of his work on Psycho (another film in which unsuspecting victims pay to stay at a strange man’s property), “I put less and less physical horror into it because I was leaving that in the mind of the audience.” In The Rental, Franco takes the maestro’s lesson and applies it, building the tension with the possibility of horror rather than the explicit inclusion of the horror itself. In doing so, we are put in the characters’ positions, heightening the fear for ourselves, and feeling closer to what the characters may be feeling about the mystery of their situation. Much like Hitchcock and his famous “bomb under the table” idea, the audience of The Rental is given enough dramatic irony in the form of following multiple characters and learning their individual secrets. The dread of this unveiling information and what is to come of its repercussions is far scarier than watching a slasher stalk them for 90 minutes. “This movie isn’t just a horror film,” Franco told Collider. “We wanted to make a relationship drama where the interpersonal issues between the characters were just as thrilling as the fact that there is a psycho killer lurking in the shadows.” And it certainly is.

Press for The Rental coincided with the run-up to White’s final season on Shameless, with both predating his newest phenomenon, The Iron Claw. The Rental was produced by Black Bear Pictures who would go on to produce Franco’s following film Somebody I Used To Know also starring Brie. As for what’s next for the specific world of The Rental, Franco has revealed to Collider, “I have a pretty strong idea for what I would do with the sequel if I was lucky enough to get the opportunity. Without giving too much away, I would want to explore the mythology of the villain a bit more and also set the story outside of the U.S. because there are AirBnBs and home shares all over the world. I feel like the rest of the world deserves to be a little bit creeped out, too.”

The Rental is available to rent on Apple TV+ in the U.S.

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