RENT-A-PAL (2020) Reviews and overview

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‘He talks to you. He listens to you. He understands you.’

Rent-A-Pal is a 2020 American thriller feature film about a lonely bachelor who develops a strange relationship with a friend via a VHS tape.

Written and directed by Jon Stevenson, the Pretty People Pictures production stars Wil Wheaton, Brian Landis Folkins, Amy Rutledge and Kathleen Brady.


In 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his ageing mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal.

Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. However, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission…


“You may be able to see where Rent-A-Pal is going before it gets there, not that it matters. The film is a sharp, unsettling portrait of the psychological damage extended periods of loneliness and isolation can inflict on a person.” The Aisle Seat

Rent-A-Pal executes a fascinating, character-driven premise of a man succumbing to the vexing psychological pressures of intense loneliness. With a swift directorial style and excellent performances to boot, find yourself a Rent-A-Pal when it drops this Friday.” Arrow in the Head

“Ultimately, Rent-A-Pal is a dramatic character study that favors full atmospheric submersion and details over characterization. It throws both the pacing and the character arcs off balance; late-game personality shifts don’t feel wholly earned. The shocking violence that comes is rendered all the more repulsive as a result, but that’s more detrimental here.” Bloody Disgusting

“Pace could be tighter, but when the picture digs into David’s melting mind, it offers excellent displays of sickness. Those going into “Rent-A-Pal” expecting something evil are advised to lower expectations. Stevenson wants to keep his film as human as possible, even making the tale more about caretaker woes than mental illness. That’s what keeps the endeavor compelling…”

” …when it finally does swing into macabre matters, the switch feels like a sudden shock even though the movie quietly conditions us for horror all along. While we say “awww” out loud in commiseration with David’s setbacks, or softly snort at something silly, Rent-a-Pal paints a portrait of a sad person teetering between depression and darkness.” Culture Crypt

“Rutledge is terrific in what is essentially the Rosemarie DeWitt role of the voice of reason, and Wheaton terrifying as either the puppet master behind David’s actions or David’s imagined scapegoat for such. You be the judge. With humor as dark as its tension, Rent-a-Pal isn’t trying to win friends or influence people; the right people will click with its message and see how eerily it holds true today, subbing one technological advance for another.” Flick Attack

“It’s assuredly engaging, but someone needed to rip out the entire third act and rewrite it. And that’s not even mentioning how contrived some plot elements are, to begin with, but those are mildly acceptable given the story itself is nothing if not unique.” Flickering Myth

“Stevenson paces Rent-A-Pal superbly (though some may find it a slow burn), allowing viewers to feel for David’s lot in life — some of the character’s back story is told in his answers to Andy on the videotape — and pulling for him when he meets Lisa, before kicking things into full-blown thriller territory. There is dark humor throughout, and Stevenson balances those moments nicely with the drama and chills.” Horror Fuel

“Despite its flaws, Rent-A-Pal manages to be an enjoyable drama. Between some good central performances, a fair share of laughs, some creepy moments, it’s an entertaining hour and forty minutes, and sometimes that’s all you need.” Loud and Clear

“I talk a lot about how great Brian Folkins is in this film, but I would be remiss not to talk about how great Wil Wheaton is playing Andy our Rent-A-Pal. He just oozed this odd but perfect charisma in this character that made you laugh but equally hate the person he was trying to be. I was blown away with the chemistry between our two leads.” Music City Drive-In

Rent-A-Pal is somehow both surprisingly sweet and horribly dark. But that blends works so well together and first time director and writer Jon Stevenson has made something very good. You will have seen this story before but this Stevenson’s film delves inside people’s loneliness and need for someone, anyone to be friends with.” Nerdly


In the USA, IFC Midnight is releasing Rent-A-Pal theatrically and on VOD on September 11th 2020.

Cast and characters:

Wil Wheaton … Andy
Brian Landis Folkins … David
Amy Rutledge … Lisa
Kathleen Brady … Lucille
Adrian Egolf … Diane
Josh Staab … Cameraman
Luke Sorge … Customer
Olivia Hendrick … Susan
Karin Carr … Carla
Sara Woodyard … Mary
Brandon Fryman … Skate City Employee

Technical details:

108 minutes
Aspect ratio and format: 2.4: 1 4K

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

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