31 Days of Hallowe’en 2020, Day 1: Rent-A-Pal [2020]

Cool, it’s that time of year again.

Who’d have thought that a movie about a lonely guy stuck at home seeking comfort through technology would be so prescient during the isolation and terror of a global pandemic unlike anything this world has ever seen?

Rent-A-Pal, my first pick for my 7th annual horror-thon, concerns a 40-year-old man David (Brian Landis Folkins) who lives with his mum (Kathleen Brady), who has dementia. He cares for her, inasmuch as feeding her overly large portions of unhealthy, ill-prepared food, losing his temper and patronising her is caring (but then the movie is set in 1990 so I guess we don’t have to think about whether or not dementia care was properly understood).

Some expository scenes show David’s day-to-day, which ends with him ugly-wanking to a porno reel in his mum’s basement. (Because, you know, sex is greasy and ugly in almost every American film.) After 6 months of being swindled by a video dating service, he finally matches with someone who happens to be a professional caregiver but is unacquainted with properly fitting jeans or moisturiser.

Evidently, a match made in heaven. But conflict ensues when a videotape David bought called ‘Rent-A-Pal’ (creepily played by Wil Wheaton) threatens his bourgeoning idyll.

Given its themes of psychosis, loneliness, sexuality and even a bit of dodgy inceldom, Rent-A-Pal is a movie that could have been so much more. I didn’t expect anything beyond good storytelling and I was fully prepared for the movie to take place solely within the main character’s house. But every idea’s surface is just peeked under rather than explored; the characters are thin sketches from what should have been a short film (though the actors do the best with what they’re given). But, worst of all, David’s mother’s dementia is repeatedly mined for crass humour until it’s inevitably trotted out for shock value.

I didn’t just dislike this movie; I find no value in either watching or recommending this to anyone. Also, the main character wears shoes throughout the house. Is that what eating pasta with yellow crap draped all over it does to your brain?

Score: 🎃

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