“You’re a dangerous woman,” a drugged character mumbles to Joyce, Lin Shaye’s tragic widow in Tommy Stoval’s psychological thriller, Room for Rent. He’s not kiddin’. The seemingly frail spinster has dark tricks up her sleeve. Not entirely dissimilar to Neil Jordan’s recent Greta, which may boast more of a “prestige factor,” Stoval’s modest effort may actually be the more substantial of the two films.
Sure, Isabelle Huppert’s unhinged titular character is the saving grace of Jordan’s otherwise paper-thin feature – but a commanding lead performance from the French stalwart is par for the course these days. The formidable Shaye, on the other hand, has appeared in well over 100 features since the mid-1970s, with no real opportunity to truly shine – until now. The actress, as it turns out, has dark tricks of her own.
Not that it comes entirely as a surprise. Shaye’s become a horror mainstay: she’s in all of the Insidious chapters, both Ouija movies, as well as countless straight-to-VOD horror flicks. The latter films’ bargain-bin fate will most likely befall Room for Rent, due to its modest production values and lack of star names, but it shouldn’t be dismissed as yet another forgettable, gore-soaked trifle. Stoval directs the admittedly predictable proceedings with an assured hand, infusing his tale with a subtext about the plight and woes of elderly single folks in our society. Don’t underestimate the underdog.
“When Joyce’s husband dies, leaving her with debts instead of an inheritance, she has no choice but to turn her place into a quirky little bed and breakfast…”