Vacancy (2007)


Maybe I'm just a sucker for this particular sub-genre, but every few years there seems to come a new "road" thriller that works really well -- but makes no money. John Dahl's Joy Ride, Jonathan Mostow's Breakdown, and James Mangold's Identity are a few of the flicks I'm talking about, and I'd have no problem including Nimrod Antal's Vacancy on that short list of underrated road thrillers. Yes, a lot of the surprises have been ruined in the trailer and no, it's certainly not the most unique little chiller under the sun -- but hey, it worked for me.

Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale star as a bickering married couple who are forced to spend a night in a seriously grungy motel. Oh, and to make matters worse, it seems that the motel proprietors are also a team of snuff-makin' mass murderers who love nothing more than terrorizing the holy snot out of unwary motorists before slashing them to bits. On camera. So while Vacancy might not be a stalk-and-stab horror flick, it's still a really slick and efficient thriller that moves rather quickly and packs a few bruising punches.

Following a powerfully cool opening credits sequence, Wilson and Beckinsale make for a prickly pair of leads -- but once we get to know the characters a little better, some of the rough edges come off. And by the time we get to the chop & chase material, you'll be more than rooting for both of 'em to survive. Character types Ethan Embry and Fran Whaley pop up for a pair of colorfully off-putting performances, but the less said about those characters, the better.

It's certainly no re-invention of the wheel, but this 12th-generation mini-Hitchcocker gets in, messes with your head, and bolts out the door in less than 90 quick minutes. It's got some strong performances, some rather creative touches by Antal, and more than a handful of 'nail-bitey, foot-stompy, omg just RUN!' moments. Perhaps it's destined to become just another cable-time thriller, but at least Vacancy is fun while it lasts. I'm not a big fan of "check your brain at the door" movies, but when one's a smoothly efficient and as darkly compelling as Vacancy, I don't mind so much. (In other words, yes there are some plot holes, but not enough to spoil the fun.)

So it's a fine and underrated movie, but the DVD doesn't offer a whole heck of a lot. Fans will enjoy the 21-minute 'making of' piece, but other than that we get just a few silly deleted scenes and some uncut versions of the in-movie snuff videos. Creepy.