Sisters Lily (Katherine Browning) and Lori (Ashley Love) move into an off-campus house with their two college friends, Bianca (Tiffany S. Walker) and Pam (Leah Verrill). Lori and Pam are a couple, which is probably the only reason Pam and Lily tolerate each other’s company, and Bianca is Lily’s over-sexed friend. Lily, meanwhile, is the innocent little angel, worried about her studies and overly chaste in comparison to the rest.
The house isn’t your average off-campus residence, however. Rented out by Devlin (Mike Campbell), a guy who could best be described as “that creep who leers at young women,” the house has the unique characteristic of being able to auto-lock all the doors and windows as soon as they close. Unbeknownst to the ladies, the house is also riddled with hidden cameras, which Devlin uses to spy on them. Not that he’d need the cameras, however, as he’s a soul-eater, one that needs the souls of “evil” women to live, and he’s able to materialize anywhere at anytime. And once Devlin has a full house of tenants, it’s time to start maneuvering and manipulating the women to get the best meal.
If you like your lo-fi horror flicks with tits, a*s and some softcore coitus, The Rental fulfills all the basic requirements. For much of the first half of the film, it’s all about creepy Devlin in a hood watching the ladies get their sex on (except for Lily, of course, though she does get her moment of nudity while taking a shower). Lori and Pam attend to each other’s nether regions in various stages of undress and Bianca gets it on with first the guy who helped them move in, and then a professor from school. The sex and nakedness obviously fits the genre, and beyond the cheap thrills it’s there to be yet another example in a horror film of how having sex equals being bad, and therefore doomed.
It’s also there, in my opinion, to pad the time because really nothing much happens in this film. The girls move in, the girls have sex, the girls bicker a bit and then the girls get menaced in the small house by hooded guy who can appear and disappear at will. As far as scares and suspense goes, it doesn’t have much. So, like many horror films, it’s a matter of waiting to see in what order people die, and how. Even in that case, no surprises to the film and the deaths aren’t particularly memorable.
The Rental also staggers a bit with its fluctuating tone. Sometimes it appears to be going for straight-up horror, other times dark comedy and in even other moments, drama. It would be one thing if everything just flowed naturally together, but the sudden injections of drama and comedy, in particular, trip up the film. For example, when one of the women has already been murdered and the other three are trapped in the house, the choice of one of them to suddenly become fixated on eating seems not just awkward, but silly. Plus, how hard is it, really, to get out of that tiny house that they seem to give up with only the smallest of efforts to escape?
That said, I did enjoy how the film bookends itself, opening and closing with a similar sequence of horrific events, further establishing the cyclical nature of the soul-eater’s endeavors. It’s a nice artistic touch, and shows that there was more thought going on than perhaps appears at a quick glance. Of course, if things are this routine for soul-eater guy, perhaps he should move. I mean, how long before someone connects that all these young women are going missing, and they’ve all, at one point or another, rented that house? Perhaps that’s the sequel?
In the end, The Rental is exactly what it appears to be, a lo-fi B-movie with attractive, young women being harassed by a creepy, demonic force bent on eating their souls. The acting isn’t always the greatest, the imagery can be a bit too dark and the score can be overwhelming. It’s not anything to write home about, really, it just delivers on a very tried-and-true, sometimes obnoxiously stale, low budget horror formula. The visual effects, particularly the soul-eating, are definitely better than average, but everything else in the film is just “okay” at best.
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