Barry's Review of Vacancy
by Barry Wurst
May 2, 2007
Here is yet another Franken-movie, a film made up of parts of other, better films. To name them all would not only make this a top 100 list but also ruin the plot twists for those who may actually want to see this. Both unoriginal and unpleasant, Vacancy is obvious, stupid and ugly.
You know the drill: two young lovers (Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale) have car trouble on a dark, spooky night and end up staying at a beat-up motel in a small lot with some awfully friendly locals (so far, we have The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Psycho, Breakdown, Identity and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I'll stop there). Things are not going well for this couple and, as the night progresses, they end up uncovering a sick operation in which they may end playing a part. To reveal more (as the trailer does) would give away the entire movie.
The director is Nimrod Antal, whose Kontroll was an exciting, rich and atmospheric thriller. Considering Vacancy is his first film stateside, it appears that he a) loves the conventions of American horror movies and b) got tripped up on his first US outing, the same way George Sluizer's American remake of his horrifying The Vanishing was such a letdown. Antal gets the look and feel of a slasher movie down perfectly - when we only see Beckinsale's face in the car sideview mirror as she watches her husband check out the car troubles, it's a nice shot; Antal is clearly acknowledging how clichÃ©d the moment is and juices it up with a cool visual. Other such moments surface, but they don't resonate and are light years away from the jolt of adrenaline he brought to Kontroll.
The story is a who-cares affair as well as a rip-off. The scenario is tense but the fatal miscasting makes the movie watchable instead of involving. Wilson and Beckinsale would work as brother and sister, but as a couple? Are you kidding? First Adam Sandler in Click and now Wilson in this - poor Beckinsale has been paired with another in-your-dreams co-star. Wilson's character is supposed to be dumb (yeah, we know he can pull that off), but the actor has no chemistry with his co-star and he looks out of place in a Psycho knockoff. Idiocracy, yes, Vacancy, no, Luke, no!
Frank Whaley has proven himself a solid character actor (and occasional leading man), as well as a capable director, but here, cast as the film's Norman Bates-wannabe, he comes across as foolish. He and Beckinsale have a fight scene late in the film that couldn't be more unbelievable. Beckinsale proved she could lay the smack down in the Underworld movies, so it's a stretch to see her get knocked around, but by Whaley?! No offense Mr. Whaley, but Abigail (Little Miss Sunshine) Breslin could kick your ass. Watching him punch out Beckinsale reminded me of Raul Julia kung fu kicking the crap out of Jean-Claude Van Damme in Street Fighter.
Speaking of fantasy, Antal's opening score and credits feel as though we could be in for a classy (or classic) genre exercise. Instead, we have the 15 millionth movie to use snuff films as a key plot point, one that is no longer shocking, just vile. For horror fans this is nothing new and not worth going out of your way to see. Two things I'll end with - when the young couple first got to the hotel, I had flashbacks of Rory Calhoun in Motel Hell (if only Vacancy were as good). Also, as I paid six bucks to see Vacancy, I heard the theater employee in the ticket booth next to mine telling a customer what Disturbia was about: "Oh, it's a remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window. I would've loved to have asked her what Vacancy was about, but the poor girl would have spent an hour referencing the countless flicks it stole from.