Vacancy (2007)
Vacancy (2007)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 25 min.

Release Date: April 20th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Nimrod Antal Actors: Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry, Scott Anderson, Caryn Mower, Meegan E. Godfrey, Kym Stys

 


 

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nhappy couple David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox (Kate Beckinsale) are returning home from a trying endeavor involving their failing marriage. When they take a shortcut off the highway to save time, an unexpected turn of events finds their car out of commission and the weary travelers forced to stay at a seedy motel – whose visitors meet a ghastly fate as unwitting stars of snuff films recorded via hidden cameras in the rooms. In order to escape, David and Amy must rely on each other (as well as a few blunders on behalf of the murderers) in a desperate bid for survival.

Both relative newcomers to the horror film genre, Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale add a charmingly realistic appeal to their roles. Their early, incessant bickering and apparent exhaustion over the quarrelsome drive home puts an interesting spin on the typical horror movie victims. Since there are only two primary protagonists, the character development is better focused and ampler, treating the audience to a richer familiarity with their heroes – and therefore a greater level of sympathy for the dire situation.

Without ineffectual or clumsy villains, most horror films would last about ten minutes, with all the characters dead and disposed of in half that amount of time. For the sake of suspense and feature-length endeavors, the entities of evil usually make a blundering mistake somewhere along the line, allowing the forces of good to prevail, if only for a little while. The antagonists in “Vacancy,” though menacing, aren’t spared from this defect, occasionally appearing dimwitted, unambitious, and unimaginative when it comes to the dastardly deeds they intend to commit. On top of this, they’re inexplicably absent for long periods while their prey is attempting to escape. Nevertheless, without their ineptitude, there would be no harrowing close-calls or shocking near-misses – which the film deftly handles.

Hollywood of late seems to have an infatuation with happy endings in horror films; or the overly clichéd twist ending, where the bad guy isn’t really dead; or the evil creature mutated, transformed, or otherwise escaped in part or in whole from whatever intricate and seemingly inescapable plan that was devised to destroy it. “Vacancy” contains no such alien life forms, but it does offer a rather routine (and, unfortunately, unwanted) twist to its conclusion, which stifles the fleeting bits of realism this chilling premise gingerly held. Perhaps Sony believes that the majority of audiences can’t handle particular outcomes, particularly when only two main protagonists are involved. But this is horror. Isn’t violent, unanticipated, unguessable death and terror welcome factors?

Regardless of any intentional or forced changes to its denouement (or whether or not director Nimrod Antal got to release his original vision), “Vacancy” manages to entertain for the extent of its relatively brief running time, with Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale making for compelling victims. It’s a white-knuckle thriller, with a wide range of anxieties and a nicely narrow setting, that also boasts a catchy score and an inventively macabre premise. Plus, during its nerve-wracking struggle for survival, a subtle yet searing commentary on voyeuristic violence as entertainment emerges from time to time to step outside of the picture’s limited penetration.

– Joel Massie

  • 6/10