Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Honeymoon Snuff'd: Vacancy (2007)

Vacancy (2007)
Rating: ****
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley

When times hit me right, I can settle down and enjoy a simple movie. Something that isn't heavy on plot. Something straightforward. Something that involves lots of chases, stalking and jump frights. The small things. Like Vacancy (2007).

Driving home from a family gathering, couple-in-quarrel David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox (Kate Beckinsale) takes a wrong turn on a remote mountain road and ends up stranded after their car breaks down. With no cell phone reception and many walks away from the only sign of civilization nearby -a seedy motel across an auto repair garage- the two leg it there and book for the night, ignoring the odd behavior of the motel's manager, Mason (Frank Whaley), who appears to be fond of watching horror movies at top volume.

After some soft bickering regarding their failing marriage and the tragedy that started it, the couple sees their trouble is just about to get worse when someone starts harassing them from the other side of the door and, most disturbing of all, there are home grown snuff films in the room. They soon come to the frightening realization that they're the next stars in these murder tapes and out there is a group of killers ready to stab and film.

Striving for more adrenaline-fueled cat-and-mouse cinematics in its approach than count-heavy murders or grandeur twists, Vacancy (2007) is a horror thriller in its simplest form, built around intensity, setting and survival. This simplicity may not offer anything new to the table as a story, but it does succeed instead in crafting fervent action and brooding suspense without resorting to explicit violence, giving us a tame yet dapper treatment of characters thinking their way out of their situation, while looking into and meeting the consequences of their choices.

It is the film's atmosphere and energy to keep the plot going that honestly made this a worthwhile watch, paced decently enough to boil in the predicament with little to no rush just to keep the eventual thrills as mint as possible, despite the brooding little clues of terrors to come. Tension is consistent and soon to be claustrophobic throughout the end of the movie, so every scene and details matter and there's, honestly, little to no dull moments to speak of. It also helps that the dialogue is smartly written and feels natural, helping establish our sympathetic leads, though nothing in comparison to the zany, frustrated and violent freak outs of Whaley's character, who honestly made the last fight all that more fun to watch. 

Honestly, the only reason I can form in my noggin as to why this movie's this overlooked is, well, there are more films like it such as The Strangers (2008) and Hush (2016). It's easy to dismiss a bare bones basic story with elements taken and done by others before it, (Like them snuff films. As well-directed, violent and creepy as they are, making you wonder just how many people did this motel already took, Evil Dead Trap (1988), Mute Witness (1995) and My Little Eye (2002) have early dibs, among many) thus it isn't that hard to picture why this film is seldom brought up or disregarded by those who find it lacking. Still, every movie has an audience and I'm positive those who are open and patient can find something of value in Vacancy (2007), a small gem of Hitchcockian glow and on edge goodness.

1 male knifed on the back
1 male caught on car's sunroof as it crashes through a building, killed
1 male crushed against the wall with a car
1 male shot to death
Total: 4


When Vacancy got its DVD release, one of its special features is Mason's Video Picks: Extended Snuff, the full cut collection of the snuff movies shown here and there throughout the film. They vary in run time, some being done and over in less than three to five minutes, but they do bring out the creepy factor ten fold for how raw all of these shorts look and feel. If you ever find yourself buying a copy of Vacancy (2007), make sure you check these out and your sick fix satisfied.

2 males stabbed to death with knives (Tape 1)
1 female knifed on the gut (Tape 2)
1 male knifed while being hanged with a noose (Tape 3)
1 male knifed while being drowned in a tub (Tape 3)
1 male had his neck slit with a knife (Tape 4)
1 female had her neck slit with a knife (Tape 4)
1 male bagged on the head, suffocated (Tape 5)
1 female knifed on the gut (Tape 6)
1 female knifed on the chest (Tape 6)
1 female knifed on the back (Tape 6)
1 elderly male knifed on the chest, bled to death (Tape 7)
Total: 12

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