Thursday, June 30, 2011

#328. Vacancy (2007)

Directed By: Nimród Antal

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley

Tag line: "Once you've checked in... The terror begins."

Trivia:  Sarah Jessica Parker was originally selected for the film, but dropped out and was replaced by Kate Beckinsale

The opening title sequence of 2007's Vacancy sports a very classical, almost Hitchcockian look, which I found appropriate seeing as this film reminded me of one of the great director's best works. And believe me, if Psycho didn't scare you away from lonely motels situated in the middle of nowhere, Vacancy sure as hell will! 

When their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, David (Luke Wilson) and Amy (Kate Beckinsale), a married couple who aren't exactly on the best of terms as of late, check into a roadside motel. After getting the key to the “Honeymoon Suite” from the quirky motel manager (Frank Whaley), David and Amy kick back and prepare for what they hope will be a comfortable evening. To unwind, David turns on the television, and when he's unable to get any reception at all, he instead watches a videotape he found sitting on top of the TV. At first glance, the tape appears to contain a horror film, but as the two will soon learn, the horror on these particular videos is all too real. 

Vacancy is tense with a capital “T”, and even the opening scenes, where David and Amy are traveling down a dark back road, prove quite stressful. Though little time is spent on their backstory, Vacancy hints at the fact that the couple recently suffered the loss of a child. As a result, they're barely on speaking terms, and when they do talk, it's usually to cast an insult in the others direction. When David swerves to avoid hitting a raccoon, a startled Amy says, quite sarcastically, “Well, better to kill us then get road kill on the car, huh?”.  From exchanges such as these, it becomes painfully clear that David and Amy really don't want to be around each other right now, and there are times when we can cut the tension between the two with a knife. Naturally, things go from bad to worse when they check into the motel. First, the phone rings, and when Amy answers, there's nobody on the other end. Then, a loud bang comes from just outside. David investigates, but sees no one. These events repeat themselves almost instantly, a phone call followed by a knock at the door, only much more intensely the second time around. The film hadn't even kicked it into high gear yet, and I found myself on the edge of my seat. It's the start of what will be a very terrifying night for the young couple, one that gets a whole lot worse the minute David pops that tape into the VCR. 

The suspense in Vacancy is occasionally unbearable, especially once David and Amy are able to put two and two together. At times unrelenting in the sheer terror it generates, Vacancy will get under your skin, and in a big, big way.