| April 22, 2007

I’m sure you have seen the numerous advertisements for Vacancy all over the place. The trailer was intriguing, and it looked like a decent thriller. You have Luke Wilson shedding his squinty-eyed romantic comedy skin and the gorgeous and talented Kate Beckinsale playing his wife. They get caught in a motel run by Frank Whaley who is creepier than ever. I still see him as Jim Dodge, from the underrated 1991 comedy Career Opportunities. In this film, he plays a voyeuristic motel manager who traps unsuspecting guests. The guests are chased, tortured, and ultimately killed for the purpose of being recorded in a snuff film edited by the manager. Whaley does a decent job in the film, but at certain times is a little over the top, making his performance comical instead of menacing.
The film has elements similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. This will seem obvious to viewers familiar with the 1960 film. From the opening title sequence and score, to small set pieces that might catch your eye, it seems as if the production team wanted to show how much they loved the film. Apart from small similarities, the film’s script, unfortunately, falls apart and doesn’t do justice to the famous Hitchcock film.
Wilson and Beckinsale play David and Amy Fox, a soon to be divorced couple traveling on a country road. They decide to take a shortcut, which we all know is a bad idea, and end up at a small gas station hooked to a motel. Actor Ethan Embry, who seems to have disappeared of late, greets them as a mechanic. He checks the engine and gives them the green light. A mile down the road, the car breaks down (along with their tempers), and they head back to the Pinewood Motel. This motel, run by Mason (Whaley), would turn away most travelers. On top of visual creepiness. Mason seems to be a weirdo, but it doesn’t change the Foxes’ decision to stay at the Pinewood. Horror ensues… oooooo.
I will give Luke Wilson props for trying something out of his comfort zone. He did a decent job and delivered what the script called for. More often than not, he had that everyman quality, which made me root for him in times of peril. As far as Kate Beckinsale is concerned, let me just say that I am biased. I would watch a two-hour movie where she walked around, disheveled and wearing a garbage bag. She almost does that here, but instead of a garbage bag, it is ripped clothes and rats. She is one of those actresses who is undeniably beautiful but at the same time can act with the best of them. Why she chose this script, which didn’t give her much to do, is a mystery to me. I enjoyed her, of course, but they could have given her more. If you are a fan of hers like me, just wait for DVD. Aside from a handful of interesting shot choices, director Nimrod Antal didn’t offer much to the film. Vacancy used tired plot devices and tricks that could be seen a mile away. On top of that, a disappointing ending prevented Vacancy from delivering what I had hoped it would. If you are going to your local theater this week and are looking for a thriller, I recommend Disturbia instead. Check out Doc Pedrolie’s great review on our website for more info.

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