Movie Review: Room for Rent

April 18, 2019 0 By Jeff Fountain

The story of a lonely widow looking for boarders to both help with cash and just someone to talk to, turns down a dark and disturbing path thanks to some great work by director Tommy Stovall and an excellent performance by the always impressive Lin Shaye.

We meet recently widowed Joyce (Lin Shaye) who is not in the best of shape both mentally and financially. To kill two birds with one stone, she decides to turn her house into a bed and breakfast. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? However, we soon find out that Joyce is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, as her erratic behavior gets worse and worse as the movie moves along. Grief and sadness quickly turn into obsession and as a viewer you begin to cringe as new people enter the house, not knowing what they are in for.

Sarah (Valeska Miller) is the first one to enter the web of Joyce, who comes off as all motherly and attentive, to begin with. Later we meet Bob (Oliver Rayon), and we watch as Joyce dotes on him as a mother and then quickly ramps that up to something else entirely. Both Sarah and Bob offer different insights into the mind of Joyce and that is not really somewhere you want to visit for too long.

Director Tommy Stovall does a great job at moving the film along at a slow but deliberate pace, building the tension and dread at wonderful intervals. There is some great camera work as well, both in focusing on the characters faces (Shaye especially) and making good use of shadows, casting an even bigger sense of doom and foreboding that the audience already feels. The house begins to feel like a cage and Joyce as the one holding the keys.

Lin Shaye gives a wonderful performance as Joyce, adding layers of frustration, anger, and obsession as the movie progresses. She gives you that smile…you know, that reminds you of a shark just before it’s about to devour you whole. The problem is, her performance is so good it overshadows everyone else, who just can’t keep up with her level of acting. Miller and Rayon do a good job with the material they’re given but many times it falls flat next to Shaye.

The story itself is good, even with some of the story being familiar territory, as director Stovall and Shaye manage to elevate it on numerous occasions so that it’s fun and creepy all at the same time. Part of what makes this movie unnerving is Joyce is the kind of woman you could see living next door to you, a neighbor you are friendly with, and you might not even notice how she is mentally unraveling bit by bit, day after day.

In the end, Room for Rent manages to make the most out of a mostly familiar story thanks to some great camera work, strong direction and Lin Shaye leading the way. There are moments or scenes that don’t really work but it’s not enough to derail the movie, or stop you from now being afraid of that seemingly harmless old woman who lives near you.

Three and a half stars out of five