The Vacancy

Ryan Owen 24/07/2007

Rating: 3/5

This film's trailer tells us pretty much everything we need to know. After their car breaks down, a middle-aged couple stay in a motel. They play one of the videos lying around which turns out to be a graphic horror with woeful production values. Obviously seeking something with better lighting, they watch the other tapes, only to realise these “slashers” are set in the same motel room they are currently staying in. The penny drops that they are going to be the stars in a forthcoming snuff movie unless they make a swift exit.

The concept is fairly generic but you find yourself wanting Vacancy to be better than it actually is. After a very smart credit sequence, we are introduced to our two protagonists. Refreshingly, there is some inspired casting with the middle-aged Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson instead of some random teens ready for the slaughter. Making use of the good cast, Nimród Antal executes good character exposition and allows for great interplay between the main couple playing their part in a disintegrated marriage. This makes for an interesting dynamic choice when compared to the archetypal over-sympathetic characters within the horror/thriller genre.
This is further replicated with clever composition and idiosyncratic lighting by Andrzej Sekula (See Pulp Fiction & American Psycho), which separates the couple visually.

However, for all its good points, Vacancy loses its original dynamism and falls flat by providing stock 2D antagonists. We are introduced to our first local, who is overly-helpful without motivation but if you've seen any horror/thrillers, or more specifically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you will have an inkling that this “first local” will turn out to be mental. In the same vein we are introduced to a motel owner/manager who just riffs off Norman Bates with his nervous twitches and ambiguous back room, and again, turns out to be mental.

Vacancy then turns into a protracted thriller, with no horror elements to speak off and then finishes without a conclusion or finale and the final credits roll with a whimper.Better than any stock horror-thrillers out there but very underwhelming from a film that showed so much promise.