When it comes to horror Sony Screen Gems has sort of become a laughing stock amongst the horror community. Sure their movies make tons of money, but they’re all made for teenagers and their girlfriends. The laundry is dirty as over the past years they’ve released nothing but horrid films such as The Fog, When a Stranger Calls, Underworld: Evolution, The Grudge, The Grudge 2, Boogeyman, The Cave, Ultraviolet and the quasi-decent Exorcist of Emily Rose. They even owned distribution rights to Eli Roth’s Hostel and dumped it into Lionsgate’s lap. Now they’re remaking Prom Night as a PG-13 film – so what exactly is the deal with VACANCY? I know it’s a backhanded compliment but I wasn’t expecting it to be HALF as good as it was.
When David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox’s (Kate Beckinsale) car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they are forced to spend the night at the only motel around, with only the TV to entertain them… until they discover that the low-budget slasher movies they’re watching were all filmed in the very room they’re sitting in. With hidden cameras now aimed at them… trapping them in rooms, crawlspaces, underground tunnels… and filming their every move, David and Amy must struggle to get out alive before whomever is watching them can finish their latest masterpiece.
What’s so odd about Vacancy is that really is just another one of Screen Gems’ crappy movies, only this one turned out remarkably well – at least for the first two acts. Written by Mark L. Smith, the story is developed quite well as we spend the first act watching tension build between our two man characters. We get a sense of who they are, where they come from and why they’re not getting along any more. This is beneficial in the second and third act as every single event that happens to them becomes even more intense. It’s hard to categorize this as horror though, as it’s a thriller about snuff films – with barely any gore.
I have a feeling that Nimrod Antal wasn’t given a free hand when directing VACANCY as it feels like Sony was once again attempting to make a PG-13 film… only they lost to the MPAA and got a solid R. Funny enough, in the end I found that it was actually a strength for the film. Sometimes our imagination is in fact scarier than what you’re shown on screen. We’ve seen torture films and they have a much different effect than this. There’s something about watching someone get snabbed in the side with a good sound effect that gives me chills. There’s also a scene where Kate Beckinsale is punched numerous times in the face behind a curtain. Sure they could (and should) have shown it, but by pulling their punches they were actually adding a little “Hitchockian” flavor.
VACANCY felt like a Hitchock movie made thirty years ago, along the lines of PSYCHO. The set design of the hotel, the characters and the way the violence was displayed screamed Hitchcock. It’s unreal to me that we saw a good five snuff films in action and barely saw any blood – and yet it was still extremely effective.
Up until the final act I was on the edge of my seat, pretty much freaking out. When it came to the finale the ball was dropped so hard it was heard in other countries. Spoiler (highlight to see) In the end the killer throws Kate Beckinsale ONTO the f’n gun, which she uses to shoot one of the killers. How f-n retarded is that? But it wasn’t just stupid unrealistic moments like this that butchered the ending – it was their cunning attempt to avoid clichés. What they failed to realize is that EVERYTHING has been done before, so when attempting to avoid the clichés they were falling into the trap of… you guessed it… more clichés. So instead of just a hardcore, ram-it-into-your-through ending, we get the f-cking rainbow, with no pot of gold at the end. I think I still hear the echo from the dropped ball.