VACANCY
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

joke about how it should have been part of the
recent
GRINDHOUSE double bill, since it
accomplishes what it sets out to do and
manages to be entertaining (if not completely
jump out of your seat scary). But the more I
thought about it, the more I realized that it
throwback to the old-fashioned programmers
that would play at drive-ins, albeit with a
slightly better known cast.

Director Nimród Antal (who made a striking
feature debut with
KONTROLL) keeps the focus
on married couple David (Luke Wilson) and Amy
(Kate Beckinsale) who are on their way home
after attending a party in honor of her parents'
anniversary. Almost immediately it becomes
clear that these two will not be celebrating
anything remotely akin to that of her parents --
indeed, it would seem that they might turn on
one another before they even arrive home.

The film, with a script by Mark L. Smith, opens
with the couple driving deserted back roads
somewhere in Southern California. Amy has
fallen asleep and David is struggling to stay
awake. Without warning, a raccoon appears in
the middle of the road and he swerves to avoid
hitting it, doing some damage to the car's
engine. The couple bicker until they spot a gas
station that appears to have been stuck in time.
The nice attendant (Ethan Embry) checks under
the hood and they are off. About two miles
down the road, though, the cars gives out. After
debating what to do, they decide to walk back
to seek assistance at the seedy motel next to
the gas station.

Run by the creepiest manager (Frank Whaley)
since the days of Dennis Weaver in
TOUCH OF
EVIL
and Anthony Perkins in PSYCHO, the
motel is more run down than they thought, even
though they "upgraded" to the honeymoon suite.
Once they settle in, David and Amy are about to
go to sleep when strange noise begin emanating
from the room next door -- a room that is
supposed to be vacant. That's just the
beginning. Deciding to unwind by watching the
videotapes in the room (and certain one must
contain porn), David makes a startling
discovery. The tapes are snuff movies made of
previous guests at the motel. Knowing that they
are being watched by cameras and that outside
their room, something or someone is waiting to
kill them, the couple has to put aside their
differences and work together if they have even
a chance to live.

Antal takes the passable script and gussies it
up enough to make for an enjoyable ride. There
isn't a lot of gore nor are there that many
jump-out-of-your-seat scary moments. But there
is tension and plenty of it. Wilson and
Beckinsale both do good work as the couple
determined to make it to the light of day. It's
only in the last act that things begin to get a bit
flaky but up till then
VACANCY does what it
sets out to do without any pretenses.


Rating:                C
MPAA Rating:        R for brutal violence and
                        terror, brief nudity,
                        and language
Running time:        80 mins.


Viewed at the Dolby 88 Screening Room
Kate Beckinsale as Amy Fox in
VACANCY

© 2007 Screen Gems (Sony)