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Monday, July 9, 2007

VACANCY (2007) - Nimrod Antal

While most horror films released these days are the kind that sees hapless teens tied up and subjected to all manner of horrible attention (see Hostel: Part II and Captivity which are currently 'gracing' the screens), there occasionally pops up a little horror film that breaks from the convention and shines like a diamond in the rough. And while upcoming 1408 certainly looks spiffy, Nimrod (yes, Nimrod) Antal's Vacancy unfortunately doesn't really cut it (pun absolutely intended) as a quality slasher film. But hey, it's certainly isn't a gore fest.

The film opens quite promisingly with a Hitchcock-inspired, Saul Bass-esque title sequence that makes you think 'hey, this might actually be great!' We're introduced to unhappily married couple Amy and David Fox (Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson), who are returning home from a family party. They drive along a dark country road, surely a sign of impending doom. David swerves to avoid a raccoon and pretty much banjaxes his car. The couple make it to the Pinewood Motel, a solitary building with a garage attached. Here, the mechanic tells them their car should make it to the next town over. But the car doesn't, and Amy and David are forced to check into the motel. Immediately, things start going awry as doors are banged on by unknown forces and David makes the grisly discovery of a couple of snuff movies, seemingly involving the motel. From here on in, David and Amy must survive the night as three murderers try to off the couple and video tape the proceedings.

To sum Vacancy up, it's half a good movie. It starts off quite well. The relationship between Amy and David is established pretty quickly, and proceedings take off without any of the usual exposition. Once the couple check into the motel, and things start to go wrong, you get the feeling that you're being drawn into a supernatural film, which would be great, if the trailer hadn't shown you what was actually coming. Antal sets the mood well, but quickly bottles it as the human element is rushed in. Set pieces arrive and disappear a little too rapidly, and the climax and resolution leave you thinking 'what? That's it?' as the end credits roll.

Performance wise, I was dreading watching Beckinsale and Wilson play off each other. Neither of them are known for their thesping talents, but both play their characters with enough conviction to draw you in. Character actor Frank Whaley does his bit as the creepy motel owner, but it's a role that's been done many times and many times better. Anthony Perkins' famous motel owner role isn't in under any threat of being out done.
Like I said, Vacancy is half a good movie. But by that rationale, it's half a bad movie, and probably something best kept for DVD... or even television viewing. Interesting, but forgettable.


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