“I’m here to be your friend. How’s that sound?”
Set in 1980 (there’s a lot of nostalgia for 80s babies in this film) Rent-A-Pal (Stevenson, 2020) tells the story of David, a 40-year-old man who lives with his mother who has dementia. His only source of income is the money his mother receives from social security for taking care of her is a 24/7 job.
David is a member of a dating service call Video Rendezvous. While waiting to pay for the video he created he is looking through the bin of video tapes next to the receptionist’s desk. There he finds a video tape titled Rent-A-Pal. He purchases the tape and quickly begins playing it. Soon, there appears Andy, someone who want to be ‘your’ friend. All seems innocent enough, until it’s not.
The casting was perfect for Wil Wheaton (Stand by Me, Big Bang Theory) has a trusting face as it is. Put that face and his voice on a video tape that promises to be your friend and the viewer is hooked.
What makes this more interesting is Andy asks questions that one would ask when getting to know each other and allows time for the viewer, in this case, David (Brian Landis Folkins), to answer. In between watching the video each day David goes about his life. He feeds his mother, plays her favorite film His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940), goes to the store and checks back into Video Rendezvous to see if anyone has matched with him. Soon he gets a match with a lady named Lisa. It’s not long before David’s steady and normal, yet lonely, life, becomes complicated. But is the complication of David’s doing or of Andy’s doing? And when things take a turn for the worse the viewer is left wondering how much is Andy’s involved in the tragedy.
A slow burn, Rent-A-Pal is a film that requires patience from the audience for it’s pace is slow, and at times, uncomfortable. The uncomfortableness comes from the fact that there are people like David out there, who are lonely and will do anything to have a friend. In David’s case, he rents a video called Rent-A-Pal. But it’s slow burn soon takes a quick turn that will not only make the viewer pay attention even more but question all that has taken place. As mentioned, is the proceeding actions that of David’s or of Andy’s?
Rent-A-Pal (2020) – Director: Jon Stevenson – Pretty People Pictures distributed by IFC Midnight – Location: US – Run time: 1hr 48min – Genre: Horror, Thriller