The cold, dreary weather – however temporary – we’re experiencing right now is a good reminder that we’re headed into the most wonderful time of the year: Scary movie season. (Although for some, myself included, scary movie season is year-round.)
Helping to kick off the season is the new film, “Rent-A-Pal,” which is directed by Jon Stevenson and stars Brian Landis Folkins, Wil Wheaton, Kathleen Brady and Amy Rutledge.
“Rent-A-Pal” is set in 1990, and is the story of a lonely bachelor named David (Landis Folkins), who lives in his mom’s (Brady) basement while he cares for her as she suffers from dementia. David hasn’t given up hope of finding a partner, though – he’s a member of the Video Rendezvous dating service and is always hoping for a match.
One day, while updating his dating video profile at Video Rendezvous, David comes across a videotape called “Rent-A-Pal.” He brings it home, puts it in his VCR and meets his new “friend” Andy (Wheaton). Skeptical at first, a super-lonely and isolated David soon falls under Andy’s spell, and the two become BFFs: drinking, playing Go-Fish, revealing embarrassing moments, complaining about their parents – especially their mothers, taking pictures together ... But when David is finally matched with Lisa (Rutledge), old Andy is none too pleased that his new pal has a lady friend.
Then things get really weird – but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Suffice it to say, super-creepy Andy ramps up the creep and a desperate David gets increasingly desperate.
“Rent-A-Pal” was filmed in Denver, by a team of Denver-based filmmakers who were committed to getting the best film they could, Stevenson said.
“As it relates to shooting in Colorado, it’s an honest-to-God indie film – we self-financed it, our entire team, we’re all friends from film school, so it’s kind of like this family movie,” he said. “That’s what was cool about it, is that when we came together to make it, everyone was sort of making the same movie and were really excited about it and knew what we were trying to do.”
The film took about three years from concept to release, and because the film started to come together long before the COVID-19 pandemic we’re knee-deep in right now, the film seems to take on a whole new feel as it explores David’s isolation, it seems a lot more real in this time when we’ve all been isolated to some degree.
“We’re dealing with that isolation, that loneliness. We’re dealing with relationships with the screen,” Landis Folkins said. “This whole movie has just been right place, right time. It just came together from conception all the way to distribution, to the release being in the time that we are in, I think people are ... going to relate to David; they’re going to relate to the things that he is going through in this film. It’s serendipitous that this film is being released right now.”
Despite what ultimately happens in the film, in the end, Landis Folkins said David is a sympathetic character – he’s in a lousy situation at home, he’s tired from caring for his mother and his prospects for love aren’t looking so hot – any of that sound familiar?
“I think it was really important for me that the audience related to him. And given the stuff that was already in the script that Jon wrote, like that beautiful monologue of David talking at Video Rendezvous, his video intro, I think from that moment on, people just connect with him, they see the human in him,” Landis Folkins said. “It was really important for me that the audience connect with David so that they really go on the journey, so that they’re conflicted in the decisions that David is making and what is happening to his mind as well.”
And for Stevenson, a lot of that was familiar when he created the world of “Rent-A-Pal.”
“That’s the thing: When writing the script, I realized it was kind of about me, where I was in my life, in that sort of vulnerable place ... everyone has a little piece of David in themselves, that person that’s afraid, or doesn’t love themselves, or they’re not willing to stand up for themselves. ... In writing the film and making it and all that kind of stuff was for me, a very therapeutic process and kind of a big piece of my self-growth. I’m so grateful for the whole journey.”
“Rent-A-Pal” will be released Friday in select theaters, on cable on demand and digital rental.