Trivia Sarah Jessica Parker dropped out of this movie, allowing Kate Beckinsale to take the female lead.
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9th Oct 07
A couple side-tracked during a long car journey are forced to stay overnight in a motel in the middle of nowhere. It's not long before they realise that something sinister is afoot, and that if they're not careful they will end up being the stars of the in-room entertainment in the form of a snuff movie.
Review Vacancy seems to have been well received in horror circles and it's not hard to see why. Bucking the recent trends of ultra-violent gore-fests or PG-13 ghost stories they've found a comfortable middle ground. No high concept twist ending, no elaborate torture sequences and a lean run time make Vacancy a welcome rarity in the modern market place.
The story revolves around a couple in their thirties who are returning from a family event. The recent death of their child has strained their relationship to breaking point and the bickering that marks the set-up section of the film is punctuated by the revelation of their impending divorce. Kate Beckinsale plays the heavily medicated wife who is furious with her husband for venturing off the main highway in order to cut their journey time. Luke Wilson puts in a strong turn as her deeply frustrated husband. It's not long before their car breaks down and they end up at a dodgy motel they'd sooner not be staying at.
I'll start by commending the restrained editing and assured direction of the film. Avoiding the ADD-MTV style cutting that has been plaguing horror for some years now allows the film to build an atmosphere, which is used effectively to convey the claustrophobia of the situations we are being shown. As previously mentioned, Luke Wilson is great and whilst Beckinsale doesn't add a great deal to the proceedings, she does little to hamper the film. Vacancy moves along at a steady pace and remains entertaining for it's 80 minute run-time. Without wishing to spoil the ending, it was also nice to see a horror film willing to harm the antagonist, regardless of how this may affect any possible sequel.
The film is, however, badly flawed. The clumsiness of the dialogue is matched only by the set-up. 'I took a shortcut and now we're lost in the middle of nowhere and our car has broken down' is no more than a single step up from the villains placing a 'detour' sign in the middle of the road. Speaking of the villains, whilst we see very little of them, it seems odd that these simple country types would be able to run a business selling snuff tapes of the occasional person who happens to break down in the middle of no where and wonder into their motel or garage, let alone one successful enough to allow for their multi-camera set-up and the editing facilities they seem to have (this image of the low tech villains is enforced by their use of VHS cassettes in the age of the DVD and the near-untraceable download). This is just one of several plot holes.
That Vacancy feels like a breath of fresh air is more a comment on the stagnation of the current horror market than a compliment of the film itself. That most horror films are about big breasted girls being stalked doesn't make Vacancy's choice of adult characters bold, it just makes it different. That it has managed to avoid an indulgent run time that seems to be affecting every genre post-Lord Of The Rings shouldn't be something of note. Viewed in the context of the time of its release Vacancy is a nice change. Only when judged for its own merits does Vacancy strike as being utterly unremarkable. For all it's Hitchcock homage’s, be it the setting or the title sequence, the film is leagues below Hitchcock’s own contributions to the genre. As such, Vacancy works well as an entertaining piece of popcorn cinema that is unlikely to stand up to repeat viewings.