Vacancy (2007)
By: J.R. McNamara on July 4, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Sony (Australia). Region 2 & 4, PAL. 2.40:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, English (FHI) subtitles. 81 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Nimrod Antal
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley
Screenplay: Mark L. Smith
Country: USA
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Immediately as this film opens you know what you are in for: the stabbing strings on the soundtrack, the quirky animated opening credits... mmm, somebody has delusions of being the next Alfred Hitchcock. But can it be done?

Well if history is something to go by, NO-ONE can top the master of the thriller. Not Gus Van Sant... not ANYONE!!

Vacancy tells of almost divorced couple David Fox (Luke Wilson) and his wife Amy (Kate Beckinsale) whose car has broken down late at night in the middle of nowhere. After a gas station attendant (Ethan Embry) fails to repair it, the couple walks along the road until they find a small, isolated motel. The hotel manager Mason (Frank Whaley) is happy to see the couple, and offers them his best room for the night, at the rate of a normal room!

Once inside, the couple settles down, and decides to watch one of the videotapes left near the TV. What they find on the tape are scenes of people being tortured and killed, and the more they watch the more they realize that the room on the tape is the room they are in. David investigates and finds cameras hidden all over the place.... filming them... and what will happen to them!!!

Wilson and Beckinsale play their parts well in this film. Wilson, the usually annoying brother of not-so-funnyman Owen Wilson, shows realistic pathos and intensity, and Beckinsale, as the perpetually depressed wife, makes a decisively accurate portrayal as well.

For me this was part of the problem. Though well performed by both actors, and the baddies of the piece as well, their performances seemed out of place in such a fluff piece of film. This film was seemingly made quick and cheap, with the key objective to get a horrorific 'torture-porn lite' flick out at the cinemas with lesser paid leads, a newish less experienced director, in Nimrod Antal, and a script by Mark L. Smith, who had previously only written and directed his own flick Séance, and to date is only working on Vacancy 2. Low output with big input equals financial hit. After all, that's what filmmaking is all about isn't it? The money...not artistic integrity!!

The other problem I had with these two characters was the characters themselves. Sure they were realistic, but I found neither of them likable enough to feel for their plight, and I think I even accidentally shouted "hit her again" during a scene where Beckinsdale's character is assaulted by one of the villains. I really needed to feel something for either of them for this film to really work for me, but neither of them was likable...which again is a tribute to the realism of the acting, but doesn't necessarily make for effective cinema. Well, in the horror oeuvre anyway.

The director of photography has a lot to answer for for how good Vacancy looks. The film opens with long lingering steady shots, with the characters filmed so the distance between them is not just obvious, but a characteristic of the film itself. As the film intensifies though, the camerawork gets closer to the actors, less steady and more frenetic... it is the sort of quality you expect from a cinematographer like Andrzej Sekula, who previously worked on American Psycho, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

This movie has gigantic aspirations, but doesn't know where those aspirations lie. Does it want to be like the aforementioned Hitchcockian thrillers, or would it rather be more of a Hostel-like hunt-fest? Unfortunately this wishy washiness leaves the viewer wanting more of either. I would have been just as happy for this have been off-screen kills and subtlety as I would if it had been full on, flat out gore-o-rama. Tragically it doesn't quite make it either way.
This film is presented in an anamorphic 2.40:1 transfer and is of high quality. A prime release from Sony, as you would expect.
The sound is spectacular! Presented in Dolby 5.1, the audio nuances of this film are fabulous, and luckily the filmmakers understand that sometimes perfect silence is just as important as heaps of layered sound.
Extra Features
In the extras we have an Alternate Opening Sequence, which starts at the end of the film, showing the results of what happens in a Crime Scene manner, and probably gives a bit too much away.

The next feature is called Checking In: The Cast and Crew of Vacancy, which, surprisingly, is a series of interviews with the cast and crew talking the film up. This is an OK documentary, but the best thing about it is finally getting to hear Kate Beckinsale speak in her proper English accent.

Mason's Video Picks: Extended Snuff Flicks is a selection of the footage filmed for the "snuff tapes" that are made in the rooms. These are far nastier than the rest of the film obviously, and it really is a shame that more of them didn't get seen. My only real problem with them is the faux-snow to make it look like video tape gets really annoying!

The deleted scene or "Raccoon Encounter" as it is called, is a worthless throwaway scene that is nothing more than a cheap scare that refers back to the spinout the characters have in their car at the beginning. The film is better off without it.

This disc also has trailers for Spiderman 3, Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud and Walking Tall: Lone Justice.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
An unessential movie on a nicely presented disc with below average extras. This film is really only worth it for two reasons: Kate Beckinsale's hotness or the fact that it provided 90s teen-heartthrob-who-failed-to-reach-his-potential Frank Whaley a job. The only people who would really get into the atmosphere of this film are those who wouldn't regularly visit this here site. In other words, for horror lightweights only.

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