The Hitchcockian first act begins with nifty (if derivative) opening credits and writer Mark L. Smith's skillful, leisurely setup. Still hurting after the death of their child, divorce-bound David and Amy (Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, not a believable pairing) become stranded in the middle of nowhere when their car breaks down. Their only option is to wait out the dawn at a rundown motel managed by oily, twitchy Mason (Frank Whaley, fun to watch).
Things get nasty after they check into their cockroach-infested honeymoon suite, a tasty location for LA-born Hungarian director Nimrod Antal, whose Kontroll hit similar claustrophobic notes. Relaxing before bedtime, David pops in a video and is horrified to see people being brutally murdered in the very room he's now occupying. The killers, having festooned the room with hidden cameras, expect the couple to be the unwitting stars of their next snuff epic.
In an era when cell-phone cameras, reality shows and internet sites have trained us to expect no privacy, Vacancy proves there's a limit. They also prove there's no limit to the amount of violence and general unpleasantness that can be depicted on film. The movie gets no credit for reserving its most sadistic material for grainy video on a motel TV. David and Amy are still hunted by murderers who like seeing people terrorized, meaning the murderers and the audience have something in common. And in escaping their dilemma, David and Amy marshal very little ingenuity, meaning the heroes and the script also have something in common.
Considering the movie gets sillier as it goes along, relying on car stunts and gunplay to get to the ambiguous, unsatisfying finish line, it's unclear why Antal wanted
to be his American debut. If it was for the art, he picked the least appropriate genre. If it was for the money, he's more American then he realizes.
Distributor: Screen Gems
Cast: Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley and Ethan Embry
Director: Nimrod Antal
Screenwriter: Mark L. Smith
Producer: Hal Lieberman
Rating: R for brutal violence and terror, brief nudity and language
Running time: 80 min.
Release date: April 20, 2007