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2007, Sony
Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry
Nimrod Antal
MPAA Rating:
[R] brutal violence and terror, brief nudity, language
80 minutes

About the Movie (synopsis from Sony)

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When David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox's (Kate Beckinsale) car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they are forced to spend the night at the only motel around, with only the TV to entertain them...until they discover that the low-budget slasher movies they're watching were all filmed in the very room they're sitting in. With hidden cameras now aimed at them...trapping them in rooms, crawlspaces, underground tunnels...and filming their every move, David and Amy must struggled to get out alive before whomever is watching them can finish their latest masterpiece.

Our Take
Commentary by Michael J. Lee (April 2007)

The most useful thing a reviewer can say to a potential viewer about Vacancy is that it is a straightforward horror thriller devoid of convoluted twists. While there is certainly a strong feeling of suspense, there is no endless chain of silly double-crosses and far-fetched shockers that have become far too commonplace in the genre. Armed with this knowledge, the audience can fully enjoy the solid survivalist brutality of this story without waiting for a generic "surprise ending" they have been conditioned to expect. This lack of an earth-shattering reveal is actually one of the strengths of the movie, as it opts to ground its disturbing premise in some sort of reality rather than a tired, feeble formula. People have made inane comments like, "You should have found out that Luke Wilson's character was really the murderer behind the whole thing." Really? Would that have been satisfying? My personal feeling is that no twist ending is better than a lame "out of the blue" one like that.

Kate Beckinsale's role in Vacancy is a nice change of pace. After witnessing her kick copious amounts of ass in action flicks like Underworld and Van Helsing, it was great to see her as someone who, when faced with violence, reacts in a way like most of us would. Rather than break out her onscreen alter-ego of accomplished killing machine, she fights back with a mix of frightened determination and clumsy desperation, emphasizing the dire struggle of her situation. She also does the hen-pecking American housewife thing surprisingly well, not only seamlessly pulling off the American accent, but nagging just enough to get viewers to forget that they're watching a glamorous movie star.

Also noteworthy about Vacancy is that it doesn't resort to the totally played out cliche of a group of stupid teenagers getting killed off one by one. Amy and David are a decidedly adult couple with adult problems and a precarious marriage, not a pair of frantic kids who are really asking to get whacked. As effectively creepy as Frank Whaley's performance is as the villain, audiences clearly feel an attachment to the protagonists and sympathize with their plight. The setting of a rundown, seedy motel that feels like a throwback to decades long dead is also a great environment for this snuff film thriller. After all, what traveler hasn't had the experience of shacking up in a dumpy room and wondering what sort of vileness went down in the bed before their arrival?

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