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Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 219: Vacancy

Oh God! This window is disgusting!

I've spent some time on the road and the only thing more important than knowing where to find a bathroom in case of an emergency is finding a clean hotel/motel. You would think that going with a national chain would be a guaranteed good night, but you would be horribly mistaken. I am still haunted by the Ramada Inn in Albany, NY. Not only was the television bolted down, but the remote was as well. Cigarette burns, disgusting carpet, and an air conditioner set to a brisk 40 degrees were just some of the “amenities” waiting for me. Throw in a city of questionable safety and you're in for a terrible night. Being around so many strangers in a place you don't know can be pretty unnerving. It could also be deadly.

Vacancy is a 2007 horror thriller starring Luke Wilson (Old School, Legally Blond) as David Fox and Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Emma) as his wife Amy. Their relationship is on the rocks and headed for a divorce, brought on by the accidental death of their son. They travel together to Amy's parent's party, keeping up the guise that they are happily married. On the way home, David leaves the highway in favor of back roads. They get lost and soon have car trouble. They pull into a gas station where a mechanic (Ethan Embry, National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation, Brotherhood) fixes their car. Despite the help, the car breaks down soon after and David and Amy have to walk to a nearby run-down motel. There they meet the strange motel manager, Mason (Frank Whaley, Broken Arrow, World Trade Center) who was watching some sort of horror movie in a back room. Mason gives them the “honeymoon suite” which is really a disgusting room with 1970's furniture. In the room, David watches unlabeled video cassettes found in the room that show people being brutally murdered. He discovers that every scene in the videos takes place in the very room they are staying in, with cameras hidden in many places. They are soon attacked by two men in masks and try to fend them off. David runs to a pay phone outside, but when he calls 911, Mason is on the other line. He escapes the booth just in time before a car driven by one of the men crashes into it. David returns to the room with Amy and they try to get the attention of a truck driver that pulls in to the motel. The truck driver is actually working with Mason and the two other men, coming to pick up snuff videos. David studies the video tapes, looking for any mistakes that the victims made. He discovers one of the killers arriving via the bathroom and discovers a secret tunnel. Amy and David take the tunnel, which leads to Mason's office. Amy uses his phone to contact the police, but the officer is killed soon after arriving. How will David and Amy survive?

Now all those cell phone commercials make sense

While being a simple movie at it's heart, Vacancy manages to weave a tight, thrilling story that is both scary and entertaining. Sometimes, when writers know they have a basic story, they try to spice things up with complicated storytelling or plot twists. Vacancy doesn't bother with any of that and just focuses on telling they story it wants to tell. The movie is fast-paced without ever feeling rushed. Having everything take place in less than 24 hours certainly helps. There is plenty of action with good violence and some blood. For a movie that showcases snuff films, there was surprisingly very little in the way of torture. I'm grateful for this because a lesser movie would have included scenes of torture as an excuse for having gruesome injuries. Instead of closeups of bloody stumps and broken bones, we get suspense and apprehension, which are far more thrilling since the leaving things open to the imagination is far more terrifying.

I like when horror movies have well-known actors working out of their comfort zone. Luke Wilson has done serious turns, but he is better known for his good-guy comedy roles. I think this helps make Wilson a believable character as he is not the type of person that you would expect to get out of this situation. He plays the role well and I would like to see him in more action/horror roles. Kate Beckinsale is no stranger to horror or action and fits the role perfectly. Sarah Jessica Parker was rumored to have been in line for the role of Amy and I am really thankful that Kate Beckinsale took the part. It's entirely possible Sarah Jessica Parker could have pulled it off, but she would not have been as convincing. Frank Whaley is good as well, both as the quirky weirdo in the beginning of the movie and the violent killer towards the end. Director Antal Nimrod (Armored, Predators) does a solid job of conveying fear while keeping the action going. There are some creative shots throughout the movie, but nothing is overdone, making each creative shot special.

Say what?

Vacancy doesn't break any new ground with it's story, but that doesn't stop it from being entertaining. The movie has a fast pace, but nothing is ever forced are crammed in for time. The movie has plenty of action and some blood, but not as much as you might expect. If you're looking for lots of gore and torture, this movie isn't for you. The movie's horror comes more from apprehension and expectation than in-your-face violence and I'm fine with that. The acting is very good, complimented with solid directing. Vacancy is simple, but still very entertaining.


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