Rent-A-Pal ★★★★

“I’m David. I’m forty years old and I live with my mother - who has dementia.”

David is a sympathetic loner. A quiet basement dweller who’s  just looking for companionship. He’s joined a video dating service which hasn’t been very productive. But before long he will meet someone. Maybe not what he originally intended, not someone to be romantic with, but someone who understands, someone who listens, someone who will always be there for him. And thus will begin his trip down a dark and twisted road, an analog nightmare with disturbing consequences. It may even be a black comedy of sorts, but only more apparent after repeated viewings. Vibes of Funny Games, The Tenant, Mother’s Day... and the intimacy of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

“What was that? The video. Who was that creepy guy?”
“He’s no one, OK? He’s no one!”

The creepy guy is Andy. A pleasant enough visage of cathode rays, smiling from inside a television set, his spirit living on a magnetic VHS tape and portrayed creepily enough by Wil Wheaton. If I was a crass film producer I would make this a franchise.
Rent-A-Pal II: Andy’s Revenge
Rent-A-Pal III: Do Not Adjust Your Tracking 
Of course none would be as good as the original but the potential is there to cheapen the whole concept and make some big $$$.

As far as this one, it did its job. Kept everything on the razor’s edge, not knowing what turn it would take, hoping for quirkiness but dreading and expecting tragedy. An acquired taste of a film, but it deserves a try. It will find its audience. And director Jon Stevenson’s retro vision is perfectly enhanced by Jimmy Weber’s synthwave score and some outstanding sound design. A few times I had to pause the film because I wasn’t sure if the neighborhood sounds were mine or their’s. (For the record it was always the movie).

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