Set around a time when VHS tapes were still our primary source of entertainment, David (Brain Landis Folkins) is a lonely, single man. He lives with his unwell mother, taking care of her daily, and has his own room in the basement. Currently, David is seeking a relationship, and he regularly visits a local dating company that uses VHS tapes to help people find their true love.
While David continues to be saddened by rejection and disappointments, one day, while doing his routine visit to the dating company, he finds a VHS tape he has never heard of before. The video is titled Rent-A-Pal and features a man named Andy (Wil Wheaton). Rent-A-Pal offers friendship, company and even compassion during hard times. Based on David’s current lifestyle, he pays for the tape, goes home and, being curious, begins to watch it. David and Andy begin to have discussions, and a new unlikely friendship begins with dangerous and horrific consequences.
As a film, I found Rent-A-Pal to be unique. Thankfully, its plot was something new and refreshing, unlike anything I have seen before in cinema. As a character, you feel sorry for David having to look after his mother full time while struggling to find human connection. Andy, played by Will Wheaton, was a fun character to see. While we only see him the same way as David does (on a large TV Set), his presence at times can be quite unsettling in a fun way. There are many moments that were unpredictable and pleasing.
For the most part, this film’s pacing is excellent, but I cannot deny the third act is slightly slower than the rest of the film. This act, while still unpredictable, certainly hurts the film the most. The film’s visuals and audio track are positive. I also enjoyed the film’s retro vibes, particularly relating to old technology. The use of VHS tapes as a form of communication to find love or friendship was a fun concept to see.
Overall, I enjoyed this film far more than I expected. It is an unpredictable thriller about a lonely man who finds friendship with another man on his television, leading to disastrous consequences. It has a plot unlike anything I have seen before and strong performances. For the most part, the film’s pace is upbeat, but the film slows down dramatically by the third act. This is worth checking out today if you seek a new thriller and horror film.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden