Rent-A-Pal,
Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Rent-A-Pal navigates the dark side of friendship

IFC Midnight and director Jon Stevenson highlight the dark side of alienation in Rent-A-Pal. Set in the year 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. 

Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. Naturally, Andy ends up meeting Mrs. Right in the form of Lisa (Amy Rutledge), who then threatens his friendship with Andy. David soon learns that some friendships come at a cost, and he desperately struggles to afford admission.

Before there were online dating services and dating apps, singles who weren’t into the nightclub scene utilized video dating services to find a potential mate. That angle alone was enough to pique my interest in Rent-A-Pal. Growing up in the eighties and nineties, I can remember seeing those TV commercials for the services. 

Watching David go through the struggles of looking for love was very relatable. Director Jon Stevenson made a wise choice in utilizing an unknown for our lead with actor Brian Landis Folkins. Watching David’s commitment and frustration of being a caregiver to a mother whose mind is slowly going away is the perfect set up for the character. David is, without a doubt, someone who would be a victim of bullying and is well, a bit weird. Yet, in his performance, Brian Landis Folkins allows us to sympathize with David.

Will Wheaton, on the other hand, is a revelation as Andy, David’s Rent-A-Pal. Since escaping the stigma of being associated with the Star Trek franchise, Wheaton’s resume includes voice-over work and a hilarious Meta version of himself on the show The Big Bang Theory. Wheaton entirely escapes into the role of Andy, showcasing charisma and friendliness. The director makes the wise choice to only showcase Wheaton as David sees him, on a TV screen. This adds to the creepiness of the storyline.

Primarily the film belongs to Andy and David; however, I did enjoy the director’s introduction of Amy Rutledge’s character Lisa in the film’s third act. As we watch the movie, we know that Lisa is right for David, and generally want to see them together. However, given that Rent-A-Pal is a thriller, we know their happy ending will most likely not happen.

In his feature debut as a writer and director, Jon Stevenson shows promise. Not only does he successfully nail the look and atmosphere of 1990, but he also avoids typical horror clichés. Stevenson avoids making Andy a supernatural entity or possibly having Andy as a figment of David’s imagination, which he easily could’ve done. However, if there was one issue I had with the film, it is the lack of 1990 Meta references, as I am a pop culture junkie.

I advise viewers not to go expecting a high body count or jump scares. Rent –A-Pal isn’t a traditional horror or thriller by any means. The film is very character-driven and slow-burning, but the angle is all part of Stevenson’s storytelling. Rent –A-Pal succeeds in showing us just how much loneliness can affect one’s mind and how we can sometimes go a little mad.

Final Grade A –

Rent –A-Pal is available on streaming platforms now.

Movie Clappers

More to explorer

Babes is a successful mix of heart and profanity

Pamela Adlon, an actress who has transitioned into a director, presents a heartwarming and uproarious comedy as her debut in “Babes,” produced by Neon Films. Ilana Glazer and Josh Rabinowitz pen the film’s screenplay. Inseparable childhood friends Eden (Ilana Glazer) and Dawn (Michelle Buteau), having grown up together in NYC, are now firmly in different phases of adulthood. Every Thanksgiving, the two decide to meet for a movie, but things take a surprising turn when Dawn goes into labor.

Sans the overlong run time Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga delivers the action goods

Australian filmmaker George Miller returns to the post-apocalyptic action-adventure genre for his eleventh film, “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” from Warner Bros. Miller collaborated with Nico Lathouris to co-write the screenplay for the fifth installment in the “Mad Max” franchise. This installment is a spin-off and prequel to the previous film, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

The Last Stop in Yuma County is an impressive debut

Francis Galluppi, the writer and director of this debut film, “The Last Stop in Yuma County,” takes audiences on a thrilling journey reminiscent of the grindhouse era. This tense and gripping thriller is set in the unforgiving desert landscape of Arizona, following a nameless young knife salesman (Jim Cummings) who finds himself in a perilous hostage situation at a remote desert rest stop.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

© Copyright Reviews & Dunn. All rights reserved

website designed by Red Robin Digital designers