Starring: Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley
Written By: Mark L. Smith
Directed By: Nimrod Antal
My rating: 3/5
As far as "yuppie couple trapped by masked predator" movies go, Vacancy is a pretty good example of a very scary, very consistent one. It follows nearly-divorced couple David and Amy as they are stalked by a motel proprieter and his henchman, to presumably become carnage for a series of snuff films.
From about 20 minutes in, until about 45 seconds from the end, the film grips its audience on a very primal level. Its remarkably Hitchcockian tone fortunately feels more like an aid to the horror than a stolen stylistic stereotype. Antal's jarring unusual framing makes for some ugly filmmaking, but aids the film later as the usual indicators of an upcoming scare are null and void. As audiences, we have become unconsciously fluent in the language of cinema and have an understanding that if there's too much empty head room in a shot, the killer will probably fill it. We also know if someone opens a door, that when they close it, the killer will be standing there. Antal cleverly teases the audiences with enough false premises to ensure that they know they cannot trust the usual language of the horror film. He then progresses to scare the pants off everyone and make the audience feels nothing less than terrorised for the duration of the film.
There are good performances from the usually-dull Kate Backinsale and the usually-hilarious Luke Wilson. They aren't the most likeable protagonists, but their determination to be cleverer than than their celluloid counterparts keeps the audience on their side. The biggest flaw in the film is the abrupt and bland ending. Hopefully the evil Hollywood studio execs are responsible for the ending, because this story at least allows some forgiveness for the filmmakers.
Basically, this is a film for the cinema. It will most likely scare you stupid and although forgettable and about as deep as a puddle, it is most definitely 85 minutes well spent!