Thursday, January 31, 2013

VACANCY (2007) movie review

Vacancy (2007) d. Antal, Nimrod (USA)

While on a road trip, bickering couple Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsdale find themselves stranded when their car (surprise!) breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, they stumble upon a hotel where Norman Bates, um, I mean, Frank Whaley, provides our couple with a “room with a view” for the night. However, as they will soon discover, they are the view – thanks to hidden cameras – and the couple must spend the night fighting for their lives to avoid becoming the latest installment in the hotel’s unsavory snuff film cottage industry.

Director Antal’s previous film, Kontroll, was a wholly original and captivating film about the underbelly of the Hungarian subway system and it's easy to understand why the young director would be attracted to yet another claustrophobic setting. While the screenplay by Mark L. Smith (who would rattle off Joe Dante's The Hole in 2009) avoids some the traditional set-ups, one can’t help but wonder how the film would have benefited from another draft or two.

Performance-wise, Wilson and Beckinsdale are fine, but the real scene-stealer is Whaley: everything about his character – from the creepy mustache to the old man style glasses – is over the top in the best possible way. At only 80 minutes, Vacancy is an adequate joyride thriller (in the best guilty-pleasure sense, of course) that only suffers from minor flaws, such as its hideous cop-out ending. Extra points for the zippy opening titles sequence, and Paul Haslinger’s pulsing score.

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