We here at Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Bang Life love the actress Lin Shaye. She has had an incredible career, mostly in horror and still making movies aged 75. For better (Dead End, 2001 Maniacs, The Insidious film series) or for worse (2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, Ouija, The Black Room), she has entertained us for years.
Her name on the cast list is normally a good sign even if the movie itself is terrible so seeing that she was the star of Room for Rent, things looked good. The end result? Better then good. Not only is Room for Rent a fantastic tension-filled horror but this might be Shaye’s best performance yet.
She is absolutely brilliant as Joyce, a recently widowed elderly woman who is feeling the sting of loneliness. Discovering that her late husband was in debt, she runs into financial trouble so decides to rent out her spare rooms as a kind of bed and breakfast.
Her first guest are a couple and Joyce strikes up a firm friendship with the woman, Sarah (Valeska Miller). They confide in each other and it is here that we first experience the fantasy world that Joyce wants to live in. She is an exceptional liar to the point of convincing herself that what she says is true.
Unbeknownst to Sarah, who has much sympathy for the frail old lady, they agree to keep in contact. Which they do through the medium of letter writing.
Her behaviour with the couple is eccentric. Borderline weird and for us as the viewer, so very awkward to watch but in a good way.
That’s nothing compared to what we experience when a ‘drifter’ named Bob (Oliver Rayon) comes to stay. Joyce’s fantasy world grows bigger, her lies deepen and her behaviour even more erratic. She dreams of having a life with Bob, similar to the romance novels she reads and will do anything to make it comes true.
As we’ve said already, Lin Shaye the reason you should watch this movie. She is phenomenal giving us a character that is part sympathetic, part fearsome. Her situation and circumstances make you want to root for her but her mood swings and manipulative behaviour make it tough at times.
She is a layered character and the film is coy with her backstory, giving you nuggets of information without feeling the need to point everything out. This also applies to Bob, Sarah and their pasts. The former in particular is a mystery until the end when things begin to fall into place. We can’t praise a movie enough that goes for subtly over spoon-feeding us like babies.
Another aspect that deserves praise is how it sets things up early on to help explain events that occur later in the movie. We see how isolated Joyce has been and how she doesn’t understand modern technology or modern kids. Her glee over discovering Airbnb is so endearing.
Outside of the script, the film is shot impressively well. In particular the use of lighting. When things are reaching their violent climax, the house seems to grow darker and darker. This just adds to the overall feel of tension that exists throughout.
There are very few things to complain about with Room for Rent. At its worst, it can feel a little predictable as events play out pretty much as you’d expect. Beyond that it’s just nit-picking and such a quality movie doesn’t need to be shaken out like a shoe after a day on the beach.
A must see.
Room for Rent