The Rental’s Dave Franco Explains Why He Made His Directorial Debut With Horror

Alison Brie in The Rental

Actor Dave Franco has had a long and successful career at age 35, with notable roles in projects like Now You See Me, The Disaster Artist, and If Beale Street Could Talk. Now the actor is stepping behind the camera, as his directorial debut The Rental was released last week. The horror flick was rented by a ton of people during its opening weekend, and its also fared well with critics. And now Franco has explained why he decided to make his first movie a scary movie.

The horror genre has been in a serious renaissance over the last few years, with unique critically acclaimed movies that also have made money at the box office. And now Dave Franco has gotten in on the action with The Rental, which is a contained story that steadily grows in tension. Franco recently spoke to this decision to step into directing with a horror movie, saying:

I think most people know me from the comedies I’ve acted in, so everyone is surprised that my directorial debut is a horror film. But as a viewer, there’s nothing I love more than a smart genre film. I think about the work of Ari Aster, Jordan Peele, Amy Seimetz, Jeremy Saulnier, Sean Durkin. These are filmmakers who make projects that feel more nuanced and atmospheric. They really take the time to creep up on you as opposed to a lot of genre films that rely too heavily on cheap jump scares.

Well, that certainly clears things up. It looks like Dave Franco appreciates a specific time of horror movie, and wanted to emulate that with his work on The Rental. And Franco definitely had the opportunity to highlight his type of horror, as he served as the director, writer, and producer of the new release.

Dave Franco's comments to Uproxx help explain the actor turned director's decision to direct a horror movie for his first feature film. He wanted to have a smart take on the genre, and inspire a feeling of atmosphere throughout The Rental's runtime. His horror inspiration are greats, and it looks like that unique perspective has fared well for the movie upon its release.

The Rental isn't a movie rife with jump scars, in fact there's barely any. Instead, the movie takes very human characters and steadily raises the stakes until it all comes to a boil in the third act. When chaos finally ensues its earned, and therefore especially effective for the audience. And in the process, Dave Franco has made a serious splash as a first time director.

Later in his same interview, Dave Franco went on to explain why he didn't fill The Rental with jump scares. This type of filmmaking is common within the horror genre, sometimes to a fault. As he put it,

These films are more about the characters and their relationships. They ultimately linger with you long after the film ends. These other ones that only rely on the jump scares, they are usually populated with these two-dimensional stock characters that you’re not invested in at all. So by the time the movie ends, you’ve already forgotten about it and they just feel disposable.

He's got a point. Characters in horror movies are often expendable, being killed off one by one. And while the protagonists of The Rental seem destined to meet grisly fates, we have to wait for things to get violent. Instead, the movie focuses on their interpersonal relationships, which therefore make their motivations during horror sequences more justified.

The Rental took the #1 spot during its opening weekend at the box office, so clearly Dave Franco's directorial debut is getting and audience. There's nothing like a summer horror flick, with Franco continuing the horror renaissance with its strong critical reception. We'll just have to wait and see if Franco ventures outside of the genre for this sophomore directorial gig.

The Rental is currently available to rent on demand and through Amazon. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.