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Movie Review: Vacancy

Directed by Nimrod Antal
Written by Mark L. Smith

Vacancy is one of those films that has the classic setup of most redneck horror flicks: a couple, or a small group of people, take a shortcut off the main road and just happen to have car trouble in the exact wrong place if one were trying to avoid psychos.  Whether or not this setup is a success depends on how many more cliches the filmmakers can pile on the proceedings, or at the very least, avoiding being dumb.

The couple in this film is Amy (Kate Beckinsale) and David Fox (Luke Wilson), who are about to get a divorce, mainly brought on by the death of their son.  They are driving from Amy’s parents’ wedding aniversary party after putting up appearances that they’re still happily married.  On the way back, David takes a shortcut, they have car trouble, and it’s not long before they’re staying in a desolate hotel for the night.

The concierge is a creepy type named Mason (an almost unrecognizable Frank Whaley), who has taken his Norman Bates peepshow one step further by installing hidden cameras in one particular room.  David, looking for something to watch, finds some videotapes, all depicting people getting murdered, all in that very room.  Apparently, Mason and his cohorts (including one played by Ethan Embry), are taping real snuff films and selling them on the black market.  David and Amy have to figure out how in the world they’ll escape when there’s no cell phone service and the pay phone dials directly to the concierge.

Short and sweet, Vacancy is a decent thriller with good use of the scope frame: it’s one of the rare scary movies that make you dread what might pop up in any area of the screen.  Eventually, after all of the secrets are revealed, it becomes your basic run and chase film, with a hapless cop thrown into the mix.  So it’s your everyday solid time-waster.


Comment from KW
Time: April 20, 2007, 10:23 am

How do these horror films keep scoring big-name actors like Wilson, Beckinsale, and that other movie got Hillary Swank? Is it like a new trend in Hollywood for bigger actors to do a scare film “for fun?” Or are these actors no longer able to get decent work?

And why does the horror genre seem to be more dried up and void of new ideas than any other genre?

Comment from Jonathan Watkins
Time: April 20, 2007, 1:49 pm

This was one of the weirdest castings for a horror movie that I’ve ever heard; especially Wilson. I mean Beckinsale has done the “Underworld” films and “Van Helsing.” I think a lot of it is strategy. Go do this possible money maker, and you can do a couple of more personal films that you want to do; that would seem to be the case for some big budget bonanza like “Van Helsing.” But “Vacancy” seems smaller, so maybe they were attracted to the script, and in Wilson’s case, maybe wanted to try something a little different than a big budget comedy. But it’s a valid question, KW. If this had been made in the eighties we would have had some pin-up girl and a piece of beefcake that would have gone on to doing DTV action films or something.

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