Friday, August 17, 2007

Vacancy (2007)

I had skipped Vacancy in theaters, partly because I was sick of slick Hollywood horror and partly because I just felt “meh” about it. When it was released on DVD this week, I decided to give it a shot because I had heard some positive reviews on it. Big mistake…now I’ll know to trust my gut instinct on horror releases in the future, because, as I suspected, this movie was just “meh” bordering on bad.

A soon-to-be-divorced couple (Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale) is driving late at night when their car starts having trouble. A friendly mechanic (Ethan Embry) helps fix it, but they only get about a mile down the road before it completely breaks down. Of course the husband of this less-than-dynamic duo took a shortcut off the interstate and now they are stuck in the middle of nowhere. They grumpily trek back to the gas station, but the mechanic has left for the night. Lo and behold, there is a questionable looking motel right next to the gas station. When they decide to spend the night, the odd motel manager (Frank Whaley) upgrades them to the honeymoon suite, complete with unwashed sheets and a serious layer of dirt covering the place. The bickering couple decides to pop in a few unmarked VHS films for a desperately needed distraction and end up face to face with snuff films that were filmed in their very motel room.

Soon, they are being terrorized by masked killers and they discover that they are also being filmed by hidden cameras. To paraphrase the film’s tagline, how can they escape if the killers are watching their every move?

Now, while this movie wasn’t a complete waste of time, I still felt underwhelmed by what I saw on screen. I appreciate that director Nimrod Antal tried to do something different with the horror genre, but the whole movie just felt so damn familiar that it failed to deliver any thrills.

Let me start by saying, Wilson and Beckinsale – not their best work to date. Now, these two aren’t known for their Oscar-worthy performances but their whining and fighting really took its toll here. Their characters weren’t at all likable or well-developed here, but that wasn’t a problem for me. I believe that it was Antal’s intention to keep us so detached from them. It’s like he wanted us to view them as if they were in an actual snuff film – with just a whiff of a backstory and no emotion towards the two. No, my problem wasn’t with the character development but rather how the characters were played and the unbelievability of their actions. I’m not sure these two downtrodden schmucks could face off against some backwoods snuff filmmakers. It just didn’t seem all that believable.

Next, the whole premise was, well, pretty boring. When the couple first arrived at the motel and the banging and rattling on the doors began, I was intrigued. But from there it all went downhill and fast. The next hour consisted of the couple running in and out of the motel room, trying to evade their attackers. And this was the point where I decided to do a little light housework and even bake a cake.

Yep, folks, I was that bored.

The constant musical cues that tell you something big and spooky is just around the corner made me role my eyes and keep reaching for the mute button. Egads, is it too much to ask to actually be surprised at a scare for once instead of being TOLD I’m about to be scared?? It was obvious from the opening credits that director Antal was trying to mimic some Hitchcock-style suspense, but, let me tell ya, Mr. Antal, you failed miserably.

Vacancy comes off staler than the air in a seedy, roach motel.

Available from Amazon!

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