• Rent-A-Pal (Umbrella Entertainment) DVD Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: December 2nd, 2020.
    Director: Jon Stevenson
    Cast: Amy Rutledge, Brian Landis Folkins, Kathleen Brady, Wil Wheaton
    Year: 2020
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    Rent-A-Pal – Movie Review:

    Set in 1990, Jon Stevenson’s 2020 film Rent-A-Pal revolves around a bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) who is, in a word, lonely. He spends his days taking care of his aged and invalid mother, Lucille (Kathleen Brady), and is, understandably, hungry for any distractions he can find to get his mind off of the depressing monotony that his life has become in these last few years as dementia has tragically robbed his mother of her mind.

    Without many other options at hand, David, tired of listening to old records and getting himself off to his deceased father’s old porn stash, decides to get involved with a video dating service called Video Rendezvous. Sadly, but predictably, he doesn’t get much in the way of results but when he comes across a strange tape titled ‘Rent-A-Pal’ curiosity gets the best of him and he pops it in his VCR. Here he’s greeted by a warm and friendly guy calling himself Andy (Wil Wheaton) who seems to have an uncanny understanding of David’s pathetic lot in life. As the movie goes on, David develops a strange friendship of sorts with Andy through the tapes that keep arriving. When Video Rendezvous finally successfully matches David up with a kindly woman named Lisa (Amy Rutledge), a caregiver by trade who can completely understand what he’s going through, it becomes clear just how strong Andy’s hold over David has become.

    This is a weirdly effective film. Brian Landis Folkins is almost shockingly believable in the lead role, you almost forget you’re watching someone act at certain points in the movie. We completely buy him as the sad sack that David is, and we pity him. Wheaton is just as a good here, crafting a genuinely strange but wholly charismatic ‘friend’ for David in the tapes that arrive, until he doesn’t. You do get a feel for where this is going as it plays out, but there are some nice twists here. Darkly comedic elements are frequently worked into the narrative as well, which helps to keep things from getting too depressing.

    More of a character study than anything else, the vast majority of the movie takes place in the sad home that David shares with Lucille. As such, the visuals are limited since there isn’t a lot of variety to the locations in the picture, but first-time director Jon Stevenson does a great job of ensuring we don’t mind this so much by using some creative color choices and camera angles. This might seem a bit gimmicky at first but stick with it. The ending is definitely a little rushed when compared to the deliberate pacing of what came before it but all in all, this all comes together and works surprisingly well.

    Rent-A-Pal – DVD Review:

    Rent-A-Pal arrives on Region 4 encoded DVD from Umbrella Entertainment in anamorphic 2.35.1 widescreen transfer. This was shot digitally, so grain and print damage are non-issues here. Detail looks pretty strong when it is supposed to but this movie was made in a very visually dark environment so expect the shadows to gobble things up on a regular basis. Some minor compression artifacts are noticeable here and there but otherwise, but colors are handled well even if there is some minor crush in a few spots.

    The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is pretty strong, with good channel separation throughout the movie, though the mix is, by design, pretty front heavy. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and the track is balanced properly. Subtitle options or alternate language options are not provided.

    There are no extra features here, not even a menu screen.

    Rent-A-Pal - The Final Word:

    Rent-A-Pal is a unique and creative thriller highlighted by some interesting directorial choices and strong performances. Umbrella’s DVD release is devoid of any extra features at all but it looks and sounds about as good as it can on a standard definition offering. Recommended.