Directed by: Nimrod Antal
Premise: A couple (Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson) is stranded in an isolated motel and finds hidden video cameras and snuff films in their room. The couple soon realizes that the hotel owner and others are planning to kill them on film.
What Works: Vacancy is a surprisingly effective thriller that manages to achieve a high level of tension. This film gives its characters and the audience their due credit by not insulting them. The story takes its time setting up the characters and gives the couple a real relationship with tensions and conflicts that establish a sense of who they are before the thrills begin. The cat and mouse game between the couple and the killers is clever and unlike some low rent slasher films, the couple acts smart, even when they make mistakes. Like Panic Room and Wait Until Dark, the film is able to use the limited geography of the setting to create a sense of claustrophobia. Like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film feels more violent than it actually is by using editing and cinematography to create an impression of the bloodshed and brutality. As the couple makes the terrible discovery about the hotel, Vacancy carefully builds the tension and the conflict, escalating it further and further in ways that demonstrate a high level of cinematic and storytelling craft.
What Doesn’t: The ending is abrupt and takes a turn for the optimistic. While it is a nice ending, it strains the film’s credibility.
Bottom Line: Vacancy is a very effective thriller. It is extremely intense and highly entertaining and it is a successful crossover genre picture that ought to find an audience both with fans of the horror film and with those who don’t normally go to this kind of film.
Episode: #139 (April 29, 2007)