Five Favorite Films

Dave Franco's Five Favorite Horror Films

The 21 Jump Street and The Disaster Artist star and first-time director of The Rental talks about tasteful gore and torturing his wife Alison Brie.

by | July 28, 2020 | Comments

(Photo by James Atoa for Everett Collection)

Dave Franco has been a working actor in Hollywood for over 15 years with no shortage of high profile gigs, from his breakout role alongside Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street to his work with his brother James in the Oscar-nominated The Disaster Artist. Though he’s no stranger to horror either, his previous forays were genre hybrids like the rom-com Warm Bodies or the comedy Fright Night with Colin Farrell, so it might seem strange to learn he chose the genre for his directorial debut. When we spoke to him, though, he confessed that horror was not just a genre he had an affinity for but one he specifically wanted to work in for his first time in the director’s chair.

The Rental follows a pair of couples as they embark on a getaway to a remote vacation rental on the seaside. Once there, they discover that they may be under surveillance, and as the couples begin to war with each other and old secrets are exposed, the once idyllic retreat turns sinister. The ensemble cast, led by Franco’s wife Alison Brie, The Guest star Dan Stevens, Shameless’ Jeremy Allen White, and indie darling Sheila Vand, shine in the thriller, which serves as perfect — or perhaps torturous — viewing for those quarantining at home. 

Ahead of the movie’s release, Franco spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about his five favorite horror films and how he approached directing his wife in some harrowing horror sequences. The movie is available to download now on various platforms and available to watch on-screen at select drive-in theaters across the country.

It Follows (2015) 95%

Let’s start with It Follows. it’s such a simple, brilliant concept, and it’s hard to believe that no one had ever done it before. It feels timeless. And the filmmaking is incredible. The lighting, the camera moves, the music, and the slightly heightened performances that feel like they belong in a throwback ’80s horror film. It just knows exactly what it is, and it somehow manages to feel nostalgic and extremely modern at the same time. I don’t know how David Robert Mitchell pulled that off. That opening sequence of that girl running away from the house and getting killed on the beach really sets the tone for the whole film, and you know that you’re in for a really unique ride.

Blue Ruin (2014) 96%

I love that Blue Ruin is practically a silent film for the first act. Yet it’s still one of the more intriguing setups I’ve seen in a thriller. I also love how Jeremy Saulnier approaches gore in his films. For example, in Blue Ruin, there’s the scene in the bathroom where Macon Blair’s character stabs the guy in the neck with a knife, and it’s raw and shocking, but it shows the audience the lengths his character is willing to go to get revenge. And after that scene, the rest of the violence in the film is more subdued, because we already know what this character is capable of, and we can use our imagination to fill in the gaps. Brilliant.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) 90%

Martha Marcy May Marlene is probably more of a thriller than a horror film, but I think it’s nearly a perfect film. I tracked down the director, Sean Durkin, and somehow convinced him to be a producer on The Rental. He was somewhat of a mentor to me throughout the whole process. And he gave me the confidence to make a horror film that doesn’t rely on jump scares. Instead, I tried to mimic what he did in Martha, where he manages to set an eerie tone with the music and his visuals that makes an audience think that something jarring could happen at any moment, even when there’s nothing overtly scary happening on screen. The movie takes its time to really draw you in, and then when it finally takes its punches, they land really hard.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) 96%

I feel like Rosemary’s Baby inspired all of the smart genre films that we see today. It takes the scares seriously, but it also prioritizes everything else. The acting, the visuals, the music, the production design, and approach everything in a tasteful, elevated way. It’s nuanced and atmospheric, and it takes its time to get under your skin, as opposed to leaning too heavily on cheap jump scares. And it’s the perfect example of how a well-made thriller or horror movie has just as much merit as the heavy dramas that are typically recognized during award season.

Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, Ich seh) (2015) 85%

Finally, I will go with Goodnight, Mommy. I was going to say The Shining, but it’s probably better for me to highlight a lesser-known film. Goodnight, Mommy is an Austrian thriller that’s so beautifully shot, that features those incredible performances, the story so dense in an unpredictable way. It starts with a quiet indie vibe, and then before you know it, the characters are being fed cockroaches and getting their eyelids super glued shut. It’s a pretty wild ride.

Jacqueline Coley for Rotten Tomatoes: Why did you want to make a horror film your first time out? You’ve done comedy and drama, but this is not necessarily a genre that you’ve done a ton of previous work in. So why horror first?

Dave Franco: I wanted my directorial debut to be a horror film for a couple of reasons. As a viewer, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a smart genre film. You know, I think about this young group of genre filmmakers that I mentioned in my top five favorite films, people like David Robert Mitchell, Ari Aster, Jeremy Saulnier, Amy Seimetz, people who are doing projects that are very artful and just happen to be scary too. And I think there’s a general stigma against horror films where people tend to look down on them and write them off as being schlocky. But I think they have just as much artistic merit as any serious drama out there.

There were also logistical reasons. I could make it with a small cast and crew and make it relatively cheap as long as we primarily shot in a single location. And the horror genre tends to deal with extreme scenarios and emotions, so I was able to have fun with the overall style. I could push boundaries, take risks, and make bold choices that would ultimately make the film feel unique to me.

You’ve worked with a lot of directors in your career. Did you hit any of them up for advice? 

Franco: I basically reached out to most of the directors I’ve worked with to pick their brains before I started. I also reached out to the directors I’ve really been inspired by over the years, or Seth Rogen and his crew, Barry Jenkins, my brother, obviously. They all create a very comfortable environment on set where they encourage everyone to voice their opinion if they think it will help the film. There are no egos on their sets, and the main rule is the best idea wins no matter who it’s coming from. That creates a warm environment where everyone feels heard, and it’s very collaborative. I tried to keep that going for The Rental.

You’ve acted with your wife, Alison Brie, before, but I’m just curious, did you find it worse to torture her through this movie or better? Was she mad at you at the end of the day?

Franco: [Laughs] Weirdly enough, we were both kind of indifferent to the torture. In a way, it was fun, because in horror movies, you get to have fun and let loose, show your range and just go crazy. I saw how much Alison was enjoying being a part of this genre that she’s not typically in, and her enjoyment was infectious. So I was giddy when we were filming the scenes of carnage that involved her.

You also co-wrote the screenplay. Was there something you wrote as “the writer” that you were kicking yourself for writing as “the director?” Because there’s always something.

Franco: The cliff sequence was challenging to film — it was really dangerous. You know, there’s a lot of wirework. We had so many extensive conversations about the storyboard or the sequence. We were constantly just making sure that we can get everything we needed creatively while keeping everyone safe. We ended up getting lucky and somehow pulled it off in one day. I look back at that sequence and really can’t process how we accomplished it, but I’m proud of it. And I also hate myself for writing it.

The Rental is available to rent or buy digitally now.


The Rental (2020)

Adjusted Score: 82.99%
Critics Consensus: Some tricky genre juggling makes The Rental a bit of a fixer-upper, but effective chills and a solid cast make this a fine destination for horror fans.
Synopsis: Two couples on an oceanside getaway grow suspicious that the host of their seemingly perfect rental house may be spying... [More]
Directed By: Dave Franco

Thumbnail image: James Atoa/Everett Collection, Fox Searchlight, Radius-TWC, Paramount Pictures. 

Tag Cloud

Universal renewed TV shows Vudu fast and furious PBS cancelled television sequel Pet Sematary Spectrum Originals franchise San Diego Comic-Con spider-man reviews Star Wars Funimation teaser ESPN talk show parents crime game of thrones Logo Video Games Musical television YouTube Premium robots disaster a nightmare on elm street History Starz Thanksgiving versus facebook political drama Bravo Shudder E3 Kids & Family video on demand Trophy Talk FXX hispanic Hallmark sitcom Teen Endgame crossover Song of Ice and Fire Television Critics Association transformers WarnerMedia Photos classics Quiz politics USA Black Mirror Comic Book best stoner Sundance Acorn TV Fall TV canceled latino CW Seed anime Pop cartoon Disney Channel breaking bad The Arrangement Certified Fresh GoT The Witch richard e. Grant CBS Countdown Apple Marathons Watching Series Travel Channel TBS Calendar theme song BET criterion Nat Geo Creative Arts Emmys SundanceTV DC streaming service serial killer spain NYCC universal monsters animated 45 Television Academy HBO TV Holidays Writers Guild of America Rom-Com Ellie Kemper Black History Month Infographic BET Awards HBO Max Pride Month Year in Review historical drama joker dramedy Mary Poppins Returns GLAAD worst Winter TV TCA Awards Emmy Nominations AMC TLC Trailer technology cancelled TV series YouTube Super Bowl movie medical drama screen actors guild 24 frames superhero Election Paramount Network christmas movies Reality OWN movies TIFF Podcast romance Trivia 2018 Lifetime jamie lee curtis rotten movies we love stop motion Masterpiece toronto name the review hollywood BBC One Emmys miniseries tv talk elevated horror cults award winner cinemax VH1 video LGBTQ unscripted golden globes Netflix reboot CNN canceled TV shows Lucasfilm free movies Hear Us Out Cannes LGBT Awards Tour independent Baby Yoda Grammys Mary Tyler Moore The Purge Amazon Prime Schedule 71st Emmy Awards Tumblr Epix blockbuster indie WGN Family Comics on TV Academy Awards Red Carpet all-time halloween TCA 2017 Martial Arts Fantasy MTV Arrowverse mission: impossible SDCC Heroines Marvel Studios Columbia Pictures Rock Spike adaptation Sundance Now Superheroe satire rotten A&E Shondaland Amazon Studios ITV Mindy Kaling 4/20 football Discovery Channel Valentine's Day natural history Fox News PaleyFest Cosplay Sony Pictures IFC south america indiana jones CMT documentary Horror Adult Swim NBC films comedies Rocky spy thriller Chernobyl Western doctor who E! 20th Century Fox 2016 science fiction obituary Character Guide chucky Binge Guide cancelled TV shows screenings Anna Paquin war Oscars FX Box Office APB emmy awards Superheroes crime drama TNT HBO Go DirecTV sports foreign Film Festival romantic comedy discovery Nickelodeon comics OneApp scary movies RT21 Captain marvel Comedy Central The CW FX on Hulu Set visit DC Comics zombies police drama RT History blaxploitation Country Turner Cartoon Network asian-american Dark Horse Comics Extras 007 National Geographic hist Esquire composers nbcuniversal Toys spanish language venice CBS All Access ABC Family Stephen King what to watch kids Freeform IFC Films psychological thriller cops nature Reality Competition MCU laika Summer Mary poppins remakes Warner Bros. singing competition Sundance TV Marvel Television justice league See It Skip It Disney+ Disney Plus Opinion slashers scorecard Winners Apple TV+ Spring TV DC Universe cats YouTube Red binge 2020 Pixar true crime strong female leads GIFs First Look Crunchyroll Syfy Rocketman Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Mystery biography critics Comedy cooking BBC America Sneak Peek Apple TV Plus space Amazon Turner Classic Movies vampires diversity TCM 2019 VICE festival Britbox nfl USA Network First Reviews Disney A24 Lifetime Christmas movies TCA Winter 2020 21st Century Fox Avengers sag awards DGA period drama crime thriller 2015 revenge based on movie children's TV X-Men President stand-up comedy American Society of Cinematographers Musicals 72 Emmy Awards psycho TV Land dark dragons streaming Disney Plus news supernatural cars New York Comic Con Biopics mutant Drama Tarantino Lionsgate die hard Holiday Peacock Amazon Prime Video Sci-Fi docudrama Mudbound finale Animation Music zero dark thirty Awards Disney streaming service batman anthology ABC mockumentary TruTV BBC Pirates The Walking Dead comiccon werewolf SXSW thriller Hallmark Christmas movies book FOX Marvel Polls and Games casting Brie Larson dceu festivals green book Food Network child's play Action travel Showtime Tubi toy story adventure Star Trek ghosts 2017 directors Film concert Interview dogs twilight social media El Rey documentaries Walt Disney Pictures MSNBC game show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt zombie Pop TV PlayStation Elton John Nominations YA TV renewals Women's History Month BAFTA Ovation aliens worst movies cancelled Premiere Dates dc spinoff quibi Crackle boxoffice Ghostbusters Hulu Best and Worst Classic Film TCA witnail Tomatazos Paramount series harry potter VOD ratings comic Netflix Christmas movies sequels Christmas