To introduce a review with a speech about the times we are living in is like pointing out that this article is written by-way-of a computer. As 2021 hit the stage I was ready for a fresh batch of movies and I started my year off with an IFC Midnight flick called Rent A Pal. Given the creepy and mysterious title of the film and a cover graced by the great Will Wheaton, I was sold. Through quarantine and political divisions, so many of us are feeling just a little bit lonely and could use a pal. This film points out that this loneliness is a timeless theme as the story takes place in the 90s when online dating was predated by stacks of VHS tapes with singles sitting in a studio telling the camera all about themselves.
When my family bought our first house, I inherited a room with posters all over the walls of really cool guys like Corey Haim and Will Wheaton. My dream was to hang out with cool guys like that so we could get fast food and drive around in a sports car. I just wanted to do cool stuff with cool dudes but I didn’t even know what cool stuff I wanted to do. As a 40-year-old man, I know exactly what I want to do for fun and I do those things. Our protagonist of my same age in this story, David, played by Brian Landis Folkins, never figured that out. David has fallen prey to a video dating store that is doing their best to set him up with the right match. He’s a bit of a hard catch as his life revolves around taking care of his mother who has dementia. He sleeps in her basement as they get by through her social security. He does a good & honest job of providing her sufficient care. David must have felt the same feeling that I felt the first time I saw Will Wheaton when he saw the former teen star on the Rent a Pal tape in the video dating store. This tape plays like a virtual friend as Andy (Will Wheaton) speaks directly to him. Seems pretty innocent at first but as David’s romantic life takes a promising turn, Andy takes on a life of us and speaks out against it.
Rent a Pal serves as a reminder of the importance of real relationships and the dangers of fake friends. There is no replacement for the kinships that we develop through working together with others and caring for one another. All of that being said, his film is extremely dark and will definitely leave you feeling a bit creeped out. But it’s a horror film. That’s what it’s supposed to do. Right? I’m really impressed that this is the directorial debut from Jon Stevenson who is known for his cinematography. Stevenson also wrote the story which is the strongest element of Rent a Pal. This brilliant 2020 psychological horror flick was a perfect way to start 2021 and I can’t wait to see what this director cooks up next.
About Nathan Conrad:
He’s best known as the Nashville-based Hip Hop/Indie Pop emcee Spoken Nerd, but this isn’t your typical rap project. He rhymes playfully at times, while sometimes playfully singing and/or rapping, he juxtaposes his style with real-life situations and subject matter. With six full-length albums into his career, the rapper has built a healthy catalog of music, which doesn’t include the number of EPs and singles released.