Director: Nimrod Antal
In Vacancy, bickering soon-to-be divorced couple Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale find themselves stalled on a deserted back road in the middle of the night. Despite the influx of such films as Psycho, The Shining, Identity and 2007’s other horror flick 1408, they decide to wait out the night until the car can get serviced by checking into a seedy motel. Although there are numerous red flags—the first and most important would be that the initial sound the two hear when entering the office is a blood curdling scream and what seems to be a graphic adult film playing in the back office—they forge ahead. Wilson, exhausted from driving all night while abusing truck driver uppers and fighting with his wife along with the ultimate emasculation of getting lost and having to ask directions at a gas station, reluctantly checks into the “newlywed suite” with Beckinsale who lashes out at her husband when a past tragedy enters the conversation and self-medicates herself into a strong sleep by the aid of a Zoloft-Prozac cocktail. When the two find that the TV of the dingy bug-infested room plays only static, they insert one of the mysterious videotapes found only to realize after a few initially horrifying images that the amateur horror and exploitative flicks are crude documentaries shot in their very room of previous guests getting slaughtered. Faster than you can say “you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave,” (Eagles, Hotel California), the two begin realizing that there may not be a way out as they try to prevent the imminent attack and outsmart the villains. Better than it should be—Panic Room with more gore—the film is elevated by the disbelieving and peeved Wilson and emotionally drained Beckinsale who, like characters in Panic and other intelligent thrillers, do come up with a variety of diversions and decoys that audience members who can barely resist yelling at the TV are thinking of in their own heads. Horror fans won’t be disappointed—it’s a B movie that knows its roots well and uses them to great effect without overstaying its welcome in less than ninety minutes.