• Rent-A-Pal (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: March 9th, 2021.
    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 – BLU-RAY Review:

    Rent-A-Pal arrives on Blu-ray from IFC/Scream Factory in an AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition. The feature takes up 35.4GBs of space on the 50GB disc and it looks very good. This was shot digitally, so grain and print damage are non-issues here. Detail is quite strong as well, advancing over the DVD release from Umbrella Entertainment from last year in pretty much every shot. Colors are handled nicely (this is a visually bleak movie but there’s some nice ‘pop’ when called for) and black levels are strong. Compression artifacts aren’t a problem at all and there’s a good amount of depth to the image.

    Audio options are offered in 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo Master Audio tracks. The 5.1 mix is the way to go if you’ve got the hardware for it, as it spreads out the score and the effects rather well. As you’d hope for with such a recent film, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced right. Subtitles are offered in English and Spanish and an English language descriptive audio track is also provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 format.

    Extras start off with The Making of Rent-A-Pal, an hour long featurtte that starts off with some pre-production meetings with the cast and crew before then going on to document the shoot pretty much from start to finish. It's interesting to see how differently the material with Wheaton was to shoot compared to the rest of the movie. We get some impromptu interviews with the cast and crew along the way, we see the cast deal with some problems as they arise on set, we learn the details of what's involved in shooting a glass pan of lasagna as it drops on the floor and plenty more. It gives you a very good idea of what went into the movie.

    The twenty-two-minute Hi, I'm Andy! featurette is a collection of footage of Wheaton in character doing his thing, and it gets pretty weird. Worth watching. The Meet Your Matches! featurette is a four-minute advertisement for the video service featured in the movie.

    Rounding out the extras is a theatrical trailer for the feature, a few bonus trailers (A Call To Spy, Centigrade, Sputnik), menus and chapter selection options. Shout! Factory packages this release with a slipcover.

    Rent-A-Pal - The Final Word:

    Rent-A-Pal is a unique and creative thriller highlighted by some interesting directorial choices and strong performances. Scream Factory has done a nice job bringing it to Blu-ray with a fine presentation and a few interesting supplements as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Rent-A-Pal Blu-ray screen caps!